* Todd Kozel had held chairman and chief executive roles
* Move seen as helping ease corporate governance concerns
By Sarah Young
LONDON, July 4 Gulf Keystone has hired
city heavyweight, Simon Murray, as chairman, in a move analysts
see as helping to calm investor concerns over corporate
governance before listing on London's main market.
M&G Investment Management - Gulf Keystone's biggest
shareholder with a 5.7 percent stake - wants four new directors
added to the board. Shareholders are also focused on a legal
challenge to ownership of its oilfields in northern Iraq.
Approval last week to develop the Shaikan field will take
output in the coming weeks to about 40,000 barrels of oil per
day (bpd) from about 2,000 bpd in 2012.
The company said in May that as part of its aim of moving
from London's junior market, it would split its chief executive
and chairman roles. Chief executive and founder Todd Kozel had
until Thursday also been chairman.
Shares in Gulf Keystone rose 2.4 percent to 148-3/4 pence by
1348 GMT on Thursday as investors welcomed Murray's appointment.
The 73-year-old was chairman of Glencore until
earlier this year. He was at the helm in 2011 when the resources
group listed and oversaw its $39 billion takeover of Xstrata.
"(Murray's) CV is ideal: a track record in progressing major
blue-chip energy companies and a 'black book' of City contacts.
Shareholders should embrace this appointment as the company
builds a boardroom fit for a full FTSE listing," Accendo Markets
trader Marc Kimsey said.
Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Sam Wahab called the appointment
positive and said the company was going in the right direction
after two years of stalling on the move to the main list.
"I'm glad to see the wheels finally in motion a little bit
faster," he said.
Murray's arrival could also help quell investor frustration
over the make-up of the board. M&G made its proposal to add new
directors in June and shareholders will have the opportunity to
vote on that at the annual meeting on July 25.
The company said it is carrying out due diligence on the
candidates and will make its recommendation to shareholders
"shortly". It is also involved in its own search process to find
one other independent non-executive director.
The other big concern is whether Excalibur Ventures is
entitled to claim an interest in Shaikan.
Investors have been waiting for months for a judgment and the
company said in June it expects a decision this year.
Murray, a former legionnaire and the oldest man to walk
without a support team to the South Pole, is on the board of
Essar Energy and was also on Vodafone's board.
He will be in charge of Gulf Keystone's remuneration
committee, a part of the business which could come under
Kozel's salary and bonus totalled $13.6 million in 2012 and
he made $7 million through share options in a year when the
company's share price has fallen 30 percent.