Monday, June 15, 2009

BP Chairman Search May Target Former BHP Billiton CEO Anderson

BP Plc, Europe’s second-biggest oil company, is considering former BHP Billiton Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Paul Anderson as a candidate to take over as its next chairman, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Anderson is a contender to replace Peter Sutherland, who was originally due to step down in April, the person said, declining to be identified because the appointment hasn’t been agreed yet. BP has been hunting for a successor to Sutherland, who was appointed chairman in 1997, for almost two years.

Anderson slashed $4.8 billion of debt at BHP and cut 20,000 jobs to restore it to profit, and was one of the architects of the merger in 2001 that created the world’s largest mining company.

Anderson is now one of two leading candidates for the BP post, the Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday, saying the identity of the other is unclear. Toby Odone, a spokesman at London-based BP, declined to comment today on the report.

Sutherland said in March he had agreed to stay on as the “turbulent business environment” was hampering the search for a replacement. BP suffered a setback in February after Paul Skinner, then-chairman of Rio Tinto Group who was cited by The Times as a candidate, became embroiled in a shareholder dispute. Skinner stepped down at Rio Tinto in April.

BP CEO Tony Hayward said last week his company’s search was “proceeding very well” and it expected to make an announcement by August.

Anderson, a 64-year-old mining and energy executive, is also the former president of Duke Energy Corp., the owner of utilities in the U.S. Southeast and Midwest, and still sits on the board of BHP Billiton as a non-executive director.

Asset Sales

Previously the chairman of Spectra Energy Corp., Anderson currently sits on the board of directors of the third-biggest U.S. pipeline operator by market value.

He set the stage for the January 2007 spinoff of Spectra, a former Duke subsidiary, by selling more than $6 billion of assets and exiting unprofitable energy-trading and power- generation operations.

Duke’s $9.15 billion acquisition of utility owner Cinergy Corp. made the electricity business large enough to stand alone, Anderson said at the time. He concluded that investors would pay more for shares of separate companies.

If appointed, one of Anderson’s first tasks at BP would be to win back investor confidence following a shareholder revolt over executive pay. In April, 34 percent of BP investors opposed its remuneration proposal for senior management, with a further 9 percent abstaining.

When Anderson took over as CEO of Duke Energy in 2003, he agreed to forgo a salary for incentives based on stock and options.

Toni Beck, a spokeswoman for Houston-based Spectra, declined to forward questions to Anderson or provide a way to contact him.