Gulf Keystone Oil Boss In Talks Over Exit Deal
One of the most controversial bosses of a London-listed company is on the verge of stepping down following a long campaign from City investors over lavish pay and weak governance.
Sky News has learnt that directors of Gulf Keystone Petroleum has been holding talks this week about the terms on which Todd Kozel, its chief executive, would step down.
In a statement, a spokesman for the company said:
"Todd is the CEO. At this point there is no deal for him to step down."
The discussions about Mr Kozel's departure could result in an announcement as soon as Friday, but could still fall apart without agreement about his exit package.
Gulf Keystone's shares have been hit recently by their exposure to the turmoil in Iraq, as well as company-specific issues including a warning that payments for exports would be delayed.
Earlier this week, the company announced that Ewen Ainsworth, its finance director, was stepping down and that a search for his successor had been launched.
If he does agree to step down, Mr Kozel is likely to receive a significant payoff, which could fuel further investor anger.
Some board members are keen to make an announcement about Mr Kozel's departure ahead of next month's annual meeting.
A number of Gulf Keystone's biggest shareholders have told the board that they will vote against a number of resolutions, including Mr Kozel's re-election, unless a statement is made confirming his departure.
In recent weeks, investors have stepped up† pressure on Simon Murray, the former French legionnaire who chairs the company, to replace Mr Kozel.
Last year, the company reached an eleventh-hour agreement with M&G and Capital Research Group to appoint a group of independent directors in order to avert a widespread rebellion at its AGM.
Much of the tension over Mr Kozel stems from his pay packages in recent years, having been awarded £14.4m in 2011 and £8.8m in 2012 despite ongoing losses.
The shares have fallen from a peak of 465p in 2012 to around 84p, with a 12 month fall of 42%. It has a market value of just under £750m.
Gulf Keystone recently switched its listing from London's junior AIM market to the main market, which imposes more stringent corporate governance requirements.
Earlier this year, it raised $250m of debt to fund development work in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
Some bankers believe a sale of the company is inevitable in the medium term.
Sky News reported last month that Gulf Keystone was preparing for Mr Kozel's exit, which the company said at the time was inaccurate.