Rockefellers to demand Exxon shake-up

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The Rockefeller family, the longest continuous shareholder in ExxonMobil, is abandoning its behind-the-scenes role at the company to press for corporate governance reforms including an independent chairman and a stronger board.

Family representatives have called a news conference in New York on Wednesday to rebuke the world’s largest oil company, which began as part of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil.

A spokesman declined to discuss the specifics of the critique but family members such as Jay Rockefeller, Democratic senator from West Virginia, have questioned Exxon’s environmental policies in the past.

In a statement, the family said: “After years of working...to encourage Exxon’s management to approach its industry challenges in new ways, members of the...family will publicly explain the concerns held by multiple generations of their family.”

The family said “a majority” of its members “is now so concerned about the direction of Exxon...that it is urging a major change in corporate governance in the form of an independent chairman of the board and a bigger leadership role for the...board of directors.’’

The statement said family members have sponsored four proxy resolutions for Exxon’s annual meeting on May 28. Although the Rockefellers’ role in Exxon has diminished – no family member has served on the board since 1911 – their views have symbolic importance.

With some competitors considering new business models, Exxon is striking a traditional tone. Last week, Rex Tillerson, chairman and chief executive, told the Financial Times: “We firmly believe that technology leadership continues to be the great enabler of our competitive advantage.”

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