Financial News

  • 2 May 2014, 15:12

Oil Firm's Controversial Chief Heads For Exit

One of the most controversial bosses of a London-listed company is being edged towards the exit door following a protracted series of rows over executive pay and shareholder returns.

Sky News understands that Todd Kozel, chief executive of the Kurdistan oil explorer Gulf Keystone Petroleum, could step down within months amid mounting pressure from fellow directors and unhappy shareholders.

The timing of Mr Kozel's exit is not guaranteed. Some board members, however, want an announcement about a succession plan to be made ahead of the company's annual meeting, which is typically held in July.

Insiders said that a number of Gulf Keystone directors had held talks this week about Mr Kozel's prospective departure.

A number of big shareholders in Gulf Keystone have continued to exert pressure on Simon Murray, the former French legionnaire who chairs the company, to replace Mr Kozel.

Last year, it 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.

City sources believe that unless Mr Kozel's departure is announced before this year's shareholder meeting, major investors will decide to vote against both the chairman and chief executive's re-election.

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 96.75p on Thursday.

Gulf Keystone recently switched its listing from London's junior AIM market to the main market, which entails more stringent corporate governance requirements.

Last month, 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.

A spokesman for Gulf Keystone, which reports first-quarter results on May 14, said that Mr Kozel was not about to resign but declined to comment on board discussions about his future.

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