Genel Names Whyte as Chairman-Designate to Succeed Hayward

  • Switch comes amid slump in shares following reserves downgrade
  • Whyte gathered ‘a lot of gas experience’ at BG Group, CEO says

Tony Hayward

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Genel Energy Plc, whose shares have dropped 90 percent in three years, named Stephen Whyte as chairman-designate to replace Tony Hayward.

Co-founder Hayward will retire after the annual general meeting on June 6, Genel said Monday. The London-based company, which downgraded its oil reserves last month, has “renewed momentum and significant opportunities” as it contends with a “very tough environment,” Whyte said in a statement.

Hayward -- the former BP Plc chief who quit after the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico -- founded and listed Genel in 2011 along with partners Nathaniel Rothschild and Julian Metherell. The 59-year-old, also non-executive chairman of commodities giant Glencore Plc, leaves Genel following the cut in reserves at its flagship field in Iraqi Kurdistan, the second downgrade in 13 months.

Amid its oil woes, Genel has pinned its ambitions on an expansion of its natural-gas business. The company said last month it had held talks about exporting Iraqi gas to neighboring Turkey with state-backed Turkish Energy Co.

Whyte has “a lot of gas experience” after working as a senior vice president at BG Group, Genel Chief Executive Officer Murat Ozgul said by phone. BG was the U.K.’s No. 3 energy company before being bought by Royal Dutch Shell Plc last year. That knowhow “will be very helpful” because Genel and the Kurdish Regional Government see gas exports to Turkey as a “game changer,” Ozgul said.

Whyte, 51, is also non-executive chairman of Sound Energy Plc, whose market capitalization is more than double that of Genel’s following a successful drilling campaign in Morocco.

Genel’s shares are trading at a fraction of their peak in February 2014, when the company was valued at $5.1 billion. The stock tumbled as oil’s collapse eroded revenue and export payments from the KRG stalled amid the escalating costs of fighting Islamic State. Genel traded unchanged on Monday at 77.5 pence as of 10:38 a.m. in London.

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