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Schroeder Said to Quit TNK-BP Board Amid Shareholder Tensions

Ex-German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and former Corus Group Plc Chairman James Leng resigned from TNK-BP’s board amid strained relations between BP Plc and its Russian billionaire partners, a person with knowledge of the decision said.

Schroeder and Leng had served as independent directors on TNK-BP’s board since January 2009, when a previous shareholder battle was resolved.

Potential claims against the rival shareholders following this year’s failed $7.8 billion alliance with OAO Rosneft were presented at today’s board meeting in Brussels, the person said, declining to be named because the talks are private. No official reason was given for their departure, they said.

The board includes four directors each from BP and AAR, and three independent directors. AAR represents Alfa Group, co-owned by Mikhail Fridman, who is also CEO of the venture; Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries and Viktor Vekselberg’s Renova Group. Alexander Shokhin, president of the business lobby Russian Union of Industrialists, is the third independent director.

TNK-BP received a report from two law firms assessing the venture’s chances of filing claims for potential damages of “billions” of dollars from BP arising from the U.K. explorer’s collapsed deal with state-owned Rosneft, people familiar with the matter said Dec. 7.

The deal, which included a potential swap of stakes in BP and Rosneft and an Arctic exploration venture in the Kara Sea, collapsed after a challenge from AAR, which said the venture has the right to pursue opportunities for BP in Russia.

BP has said TNK-BP suffered no losses and called any damages claims ``absurd.''

No motion was made on the potential claims, although a vote is possible next year, the person said.

The board also approved an additional dividend of $1.25 billion, raising payouts for this year to a record, one person said.

TNK-BP’s and AAR’s press services declined to comment.

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