Occidental shareholders vote out long-time chairman Irani

SANTA MONICA, California Fri May 3, 2013 3:24pm EDT

SANTA MONICA, California (Reuters) - Occidental Petroleum Corp (OXY.N) shareholders in a vote on Friday ousted Chairman Ray Irani after more than two decades of leading the oil company.

Chief Executive Steve Chazen announced the news at the company's annual shareholder meeting.

It was a jarring corporate end for Irani, before his planned retirement next year at the Los Angeles-based company.

The Wall Street Journal said in March there was pressure from Irani for Chazen to leave as CEO but added that Chazen had the support of several big investors. The company had denied any fight at the top.

"I think the announcement was basically a formality at this point," said Allen Good, an oil company analyst at Morningstar in Chicago, referring to Irani's departure. "I think ultimately this clears the path for Chazen to continue what he is focusing on so far, which is cost improvement.

"It also might clear the way for the break-up of the company. They are a much bigger now, so it might make sense to create a couple of different companies out of Oxy."

Shares of Occidental rose nearly 3 percent to $90.51 in afternoon New York Stock Exchange trading.

Taking over as CEO in 1990 from tycoon Armand Hammer, who built Oxy up from a small firm over three decades, Irani oversaw more dramatic growth for the company but raised eyebrows with his lavish pay packages.

Chazen, 66, took over from the 78-year-old Irani two years ago, having served alongside him in the executive suite since 1994.

Occidental said in mid-February that it was seeking a replacement for Chazen. It said in April that the executive would continue in his role through 2014, a move aimed at reducing uncertainty over succession plans.

Earlier this week, influential advisory firm ISS had reaffirmed its recommendation to vote against Irani and for the executive compensation plan, calling recently announced new policies a move in a "positive direction.

(Reporting by Braden Reddall, writing by Anna Driver; Editing by Kenneth Barry)

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