Gulf Keystone Petroleum (LSE: GKP) announced yesterday that Todd Kozel, the company’s founder, is standing down from the board of directors. He will also not be accepting the previously announced role of Executive Director following his retirement as Chief Executive Officer.
Kozel will, however, remain an officer of the group, and will play a role in maintaining Gulf Keystone’s relationship with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Mark Hanson, who was appointed as a non-executive director in 2011, also retired from his role at yesterday’s AGM.
Kozel had been a highly controversial figure at the company, primarily because of his “generous” pay awards — in 2011 he received a package calculated at $22m — and shareholders were expected to try to push him if he didn’t jump. Gulf Keystone’s board is now looking seriously denuded, following the sudden departure of finance director Ewen Ainsworth in mid June, and the loss of three non-executive directors — Jeremy Asher, John Bell and Thomas Shull — later last month.
Kozel has been succeeded as CEO, with immediate effect, by John Gerstenlauer, who had served as Gulf Keystone’s Chief Operating Officer since joining the company 2008 from BASF’s Wintershall Nederland Group, where he had been managing director since 2003. Gerstenlauer’s previous roles include international operations manager of UMC Petroleum and operations manager of Canadian Occidental Yemen.
Commenting on the announcement, non-executive chairman Simon Murray
“Todd hands Gulf Keystone on in extremely good shape and with as bright a future as ever. The Company has successfully transitioned from junior explorer into a player of real scale with production today of 25,000 barrels of oil per day, set to increase markedly over the coming months.
“John Gerstenlauer has supervised the drilling of every well since we commenced operations in Kurdistan in 2008 and was the leader of the team that made the largest on-shore discovery in the last 20 years. Nobody knows this asset better, and there is no one better qualified to take up the role of CEO.“
At 89.27p, Gulf Keystone’s share price is down almost 50% so far in 2014, versus a FTSE 100 that’s remained largely flat, and has fallen 76% from its peak in early 2012. But longer-term shareholders will be happy with Gulf Keystone’s 611% rise over the past five years, which leaves the FTSE 100’s 53% rise trailing in its wake.
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Jon Wallis has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the shares mentioned.