Wael Sawan: Getting To Know Shell’s New Chief Executive Officer

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Last week, Energy giants, Shell announced that its chief executive officer, Ben van Beurden will step down at the end of 2022 and that his successor will be the company’s renewables director.
Who is this Shell’s chief executive officer [CEO]? The new chief strategist – Wael Sawan, the 48-year-old who grew up in Dubai, will replace Ben van Beurden at the energy company

Shell named Wael Sawan, head of its integrated gas and renewables division, as its new chief executive on Thursday. He will replace Ben van Beurden, with the energy company on the cusp of a transition to cleaner energy.

Mr Sawan, 48, currently oversees Shell’s growth into low carbon energies, as well as its giant gas business. He was seen as the front-runner to succeed Mr Van Beurden and will inherit one of the industry’s most  ambitious green targets.

Also Read: Report Pins Oil Spill at Shell’s Field on Equipment Failure

Seven facts about Wael Sawan

A Canadian citizen of Lebanese origin, he has headed Shell’s integrated gas, renewables and energy solutions division since November 2021.
Mr Sawan begins as chief executive on January 1. “Wael Sawan is an exceptional leader, with all the qualities needed to drive Shell safely and profitably through its next phase of transition and growth,” Shell chairman Andrew Mackenzie said of his appointment.

Born in Beirut in July 1974, Mr Sawan grew up in Dubai and studied at Harvard Business School. He graduated with a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Canada’s McGill University.
Mr Sawan joined Shell in 1997 and has been a member of the group’s executive committee for three years.

Before taking up his current role, Mr Sawan was director of Shell’s upstream business, where he oversaw the divestment of the Permian business and decision to exit onshore Nigeria.
Mr Sawan also had stints with Shell’s deepwater and Qatar operations during a 25-year career spanning roles in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Also Read: Shell’s Renewable Director Replaces CEO

The 48-year old has three sons with wife Nicole.
Financial Times [FT] said in a report that preparations for van Beurden’s departure started last May when Scottish businessman and former CEO of BHP Billiton, Sir Andrew Mackenzie, became Shell’s chairman.
Quoting two unnamed sources, Reuters said that Shell’s top management and the board succession committee met several times this summer about Beurden’s departure and potential successors.

According to Reuters, Shell’s top management, after thorough and rigorous search picked Wael Sawan, Shell’s director of integrated gas, renewables, and energy solutions, to lead the company on Jan. 1.
“Sawan’s appointment last year as head of the group’s integrated gas and renewables business was viewed internally as a sign he was being groomed for the top job,” FT noted.

Mackenzie commented on Sawan’s appointment by saying he “is an exceptional leader, with all the qualities needed to drive Shell safely and profitably through its next phase of transition and growth.”
Sawan said: “I’m looking forward to channeling the pioneering spirit and passion of our incredible people to rise to the immense challenges, and grasp the opportunities presented by the energy transition.”
The outgoing CEO “can look back with great pride on an extraordinary 39-year Shell career,” Mackenzie said, adding, the last decade, van Beurden “has been in the vanguard for the transition of Shell to a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050.”

Also Read: Shell, Exxon to Sell $1.5bn Natural Joint Gas Venture

Now, the dual Lebanese-Canadian national, Sawan, will accelerate Shell’s strategy to become a net-zero company by 2050. Shell is expected to continue generating cash from its legacy oil business but invest heavily “ time” into gas, chemicals, renewables, and selling power.
Biraj Borkhataria, head of oil and gas equity research at RBC Capital Markets, said Sawan was “respected” by the investors.

“The shift is likely to be more of a continuation than revolution of the strategy put in place by van Beurden,” Borkhataria said.

The news of the company’s renewables chief to lead the oil giant may be optically pleasing for green investors. However, the oil giant has been accused of corporate “greenwashing” and marketing itself as -friendly more than it is.


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