Gulf Keystone denies media report on plans to oust CEO

Thu May 1, 2014 6:09pm EDT

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May 1 (Reuters) - Oil explorer Gulf Keystone on Thursday denied a media report that its board and investors planned to call for the resignation of founder and Chief Executive Todd Kozel within months.

British broadcaster Sky News reported that several Gulf Keystone directors had held talks this week about Kozel's departure, prompted by a series of rows over executive pay and shareholder returns. (link.reuters.com/wyg98v)

Gulf Keystone spokesman Terence Franklin denied the report and told Reuters there was no substance to these "rumours".

Franklin confirmed the meetings but said he did not know what had been discussed.

Sky, citing sources, said some board members wanted an announcement about a succession plan before the company's annual meeting, typically held in July.

The broadcaster also said a number of big shareholders in the London-listed company want to replace Kozel with Simon Murray, the ex-Glencore chairman who now heads Gulf Keystone's board.

Murray, who was at Glencore's helm in 2011 when the resources group listed and oversaw its $39 billion takeover of Xstrata, was appointed chairman of Gulf Keystone in July 2013 to help quell investor frustration over the board's make-up at the time.

He was put in charge of Gulf Keystone's remuneration committee, a part of the business which could come under shareholder scrutiny.

In March, Kurdistan-focused Gulf Keystone posted a $32 million loss after tax for 2013. Kozel's salary and bonus totalled $13.6 million in 2012, and he made $7 million through share options that year.

Sky cited sources saying major investors would decide to vote against both the chairman and chief executive's re-election if Kozel's departure was not announced before this year's shareholder meeting. (Reporting by Richa Naidu in Bangalore; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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