LONDON (Reuters) - Glencore Xstrata (GLEN.L) confirmed Tony Hayward as permanent chairman of the mining and commodities trading group, sealing the former BP (BP.L) chief executive's comeback from the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.
Hayward, who is also chief executive of London-listed oil company Genel Energy Plc (GENL.L), has been Glencore Xstrata's interim chairman since last May, when his predecessor Sir John Bond was ousted by shareholders.
At the time, Glencore Xstrata said Hayward would return to his role as a senior independent director once a chairman was found.
Other leading candidates for the role were former Vale (VALE5.SA) boss Roger Agnelli and ex-BG (BG.L) CEO Frank Chapman, sources said. The final decision was made after consultation with shareholders.
Hayward's confirmation as chairman of one of the world's largest mining groups completes his return to the corporate big league after he was forced out of BP (BP.L) following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
He was severely criticized for his handling of the disaster that killed 11 people and left huge stretches of sea and coast fouled with oil.
"Tony Hayward's experience at BP, including resolving the TNK-BP dispute and his subsequent success at Genel mitigate the negatives that surrounded his departure from BP," Nomura analysts said in a note to clients, referring to BP's then Russian joint venture.
He is expected to eventually step down as chief executive of Genel, the oil and gas explorer he has invested in alongside British-born financier Nat Rothschild, a source close to the matter said.
Genel, which focuses on producing oil in the autonomous Iraqi region of Kurdistan, declined to comment on whether Hayward would leave.
"Tony Hayward is and continues to be CEO of Genel Energy and will continue to do both roles, as he has done successfully for the past 12 months," a Genel spokesman said in a statement.
One media report on Wednesday said Hayward would leave Genel after a successor has been found and a handover period allowed to take place, while another said Hayward was expected to leave within a year.
"If he does end up leaving, we would see this as a negative for Genel. Nevertheless the fundamentals of our Genel investment case ... remain intact," Arden Partners analyst Daniel Slater said.
After leaving BP, Hayward co-founded Vallares Plc with Rothschild and became chief executive of Genel Energy Plc in 2011 after the merger of Vallares and Turkey's Genel Energy International Limited.
In his permanent role at Glencore Xstrata, Hayward could help the company with new acquisitions in the oil sector.
"Oil seems to be a growing arm of the Glencore business and if they want to push and expand a bit more Tony's expertise can certainly help with that," Investec analyst Marc Elliott said.
Meanwhile, a group of British public sector pension funds has opposed Hayward's appointment and asked its members to vote against him in protest at the company's failure to set targets for female representation on its board.
Glencore defended its position and said it was searching for suitable women board members.
"Glencore values and promotes diversity across its business. The appointment of a female board member is a significant consideration, and our nominations committee is working to identify appropriate female candidates," a Glencore official said in a statement.
Glencore expanded its oil and gas operations with the 800 million pound ($1.4 billion) acquisition of Chad-focused energy company Caracal Energy (CRCL.L) last month. ($1 = 0.5894 British Pounds)