SYDNEY, Aug 23 (Reuters) - BHP Billiton on Wednesday unveiled a board shakeup that will see controversial director Grant King step down six months after joining the company amid concerns among investors over oil investments.
King, a former chief executive of Origin Energy, was once tipped to succeed Jac Nasser as chairman of the world’s biggest mining company, but was passed over earlier this year for fellow board member Ken MacKenzie.
“Owing to concerns expressed by some investors, Grant King has decided that he will not stand for election at the 2017 annual general meetings of BHP, and will retire from the board on 31 August 2017,” Nasser said in a statement.
BHP is under pressure from investors led by U.S. hedge fund Elliott Management to rethink its investment in oil and boost shareholder returns. The company said on Tuesday it would exit its underperforming U.S. shale oil and gas assets.
King oversaw dramatic growth at energy retailer Origin during a 16-year stint as managing director. However, a decision to build a A$25 billion ($19.7 billion) liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant led to a plunge in the company’s share price in 2015 after oil prices plunged just as its debt peaked.
The move came a day after BHP unveiled a $6.7 billion underlying annual profit and sought to reassure investors it would allocate future capital with caution and use excess cash to cut debt and reward shareholders.
Another director, Malcolm Brinded will not to stand for re-election as a non-executive director, BHP said.
The pair will be replaced by two new independent non-executive directors, Terry Bowen, a finance director for Australian retail and mining conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd and John Mogford, a former BP Plc executive.
The pair will take up their roles on Oct. 1.
MacKenzie has spent the past two months sounding out shareholders over their concerns ahead of his Sept. 1 start date, BHP has said.
$1 = 1.2686 Australian dollars Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Richard Pullin