The Men Who Run Shell

LONDON -- Royal Dutch Shell (LSE: RDSB.L  ) is the largest company on the FTSE 100, accounting for nearly 9% of the index. Yet compared to the top executives at rival BP (LSE: BP.L  ) -- who are often in the news, if not always for the best of reasons -- Shell's directors keep a low profile. So it's time to turn the spotlight on them.

Management can make all the difference to a company's success and thus its share price. In this series, I'm assessing the boardrooms of companies within the FTSE 100. I hope to separate the management teams that are worth following from those that are not.

To me, at least, the best companies are those run by talented and experienced leaders with strong vested interests in the success of the business, held in check by a board with sound financial and business acumen. On the other hand, some of the worst investments to hold are those run by executives collecting fat rewards as the underlying business goes to pot. I've collated all my FTSE 100 boardroom verdicts on this summary page.

This is Shell's top team:

Director

Position

Jorma Ollila

Nonexecutive chairman

Peter Voser

CEO

Simon Henry

CFO

Unlike BP, which has four executive directors, Shell has just two executives on its board. Its former executive director for exploration and production, Malcolm Brinded, stepped down in April with a 2 million pound payoff on top of his 10 million pound 2011 remuneration.

Jorma Ollila is the man who turned Nokia from a struggling conglomerate into a mobile-phone giant, first as head of its mobile-phone division and then as CEO and Chairman, a post he relinquished just last May. That's an impressive track record -- except that following the turnaround, he remained on board to see Nokia become a struggling mobile-phone manufacturer. He became Shell's chairman in 2006.

Apart from a successful two-year stint as CFO of Asea Brown Bovery, Peter Voser has worked for Shell for 30 years, becoming CEO in 2009.

Ollila and Voser have steered Shell's diversification geographically and technologically, with a major push into natural gas. It has avoided the major safety scandals and political interference that have dogged BP. Shell's controversies have been in the environmental field -- in Nigeria and the Arctic -- and it has a long-standing reputation for over-generous boardroom remuneration. Voser's pay was doubled in 2011 to more than 10 million pounds.

Simon Henry is also a longtime Shell employee. He became CFO in 2009. The eight nonexecs variously have impressive backgrounds in business, finance, law, and diplomacy. They include Guy Elliot, who is CFO of Rio Tinto and has been tipped as a possible successor to Ollila.

I analyze management teams from five different angles to help work out a verdict. Here's my assessment:

Factor

Comment

Score

Reputation: Management CVs and track record

Ollila's reputation may have been dented.

2

Performance: Success at the company

 

Diversification and performance over top team's three-year tenure are good.

4

Board Composition: Skills, experience, and balance

Good mix: FD is not from the profession, and CEO and CFO are both company men.

3

Remuneration: Fairness of pay and link to performance

A reputation for overly generous remuneration sticks.

2

Directors' holdings: Compared to their pay

Despite large holdings within a deferred benefit plan, the actual shareholdings of directors are small.

1

Overall, Shell scores 12 out of 25 for me -- a middling result within the FTSE 100 and well below BP's 16. Shell directors' lavish remuneration and lack of skin in the game count against them. But they have been in their posts longer than BP's top team, and they've delivered a decent result.

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Tony has shares in Shell and Rio Tinto but no other shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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