November 15, 2011 3:41 pm

BG Group starts race for chief executive role

BG Group, the FTSE 100 oil and gas producer, has in effect fired the starting pistol in the race for three internal candidates to take over the role of chief executive from Sir Frank Chapman with a series of board changes.

Martin Houston, BG’s executive director in charge of the Americas and Global LNG who has been with the company since 1983, is promoted to chief operating officer.

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A BG veteran who joined the company in 1983, he had already been tipped as a leading internal candidate to succeed Sir Frank, who plans to give up his role by the end of 2013 when he will be aged 60.

Mr Houston is formally joined by two other recent recruits in a revamp of executive roles announced on Tuesday.

Fabio Barbosa, BG’s chief financial officer, will add strategy and portfolio development to his role. Mr Barbosa joined BG’s board last year after an eight-year spell as the chief financial officer at Vale, the Brazilian mining company.

Chris Finlayson, managing director of Europe and central Asia, also joins the race after his promotion to the board and takes command of BG Advance, which is responsible for BG’s exploration and large capital projects.

As with fellow contender Mr Barbosa, Mr Finlayson is a recent recruit. He joined BG last August after 33 years with Royal Dutch Shell and replaces Jørn Berget on BG’s executive committee who will retire from the company next year.

Sir Robert Wilson, BG chairman, said on Tuesday: “The creation of these three expanded board level roles means we have an appropriate internal succession process under way, in addition to an external search, to replace Sir Frank Chapman when he retires as chief executive before the end of 2013.”

The move gives all three the opportunity over the next 12-18 months to establish their credentials to lead a company that has been transformed in recent years from one focused mainly on the North Sea into a global energy operator.

The revamping of responsibilities granted to contenders for Sir Frank’s role comes a fortnight after BG ended weeks of speculation by confirming Andrew Gould, the well-respected former chief executive of oilfield services group Schlumberger, as its next chairman from May next year.

The company is building on the example set by pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline and other corporations in drawing up protracted and relatively public competitions to identify their next chief executives.

In 2007, GSK chairman Sir Chris Gent appointed Andrew Witty as chief executive to replace Jean-Pierre Garnier, following a run-off against fellow internal candidates David Stout and Chris Viehbacher. Mr Witty’s appointment, however, was then followed by the departure of the rebuffed contenders.

Former General Electric chief Jack Welch pitted successor Jeff Immelt against rival contenders James McNerney and Bob Nardelli, both of whom then left to run other companies.

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