May 13 (Reuters) - Offshore driller Transocean Ltd said early on Monday chairman and former chief executive Michael Talbert will step down in the next year, a move that comes days before a proxy fight between the company and billionaire investor Carl Icahn.
Transocean said Talbert advised the board that if re-elected at the company’s upcoming shareholders meeting on May 17, he will retire no later than the company’s 2014 annual general meeting.
Talbert was CEO of Transocean from 1994 to 2002 and has served on the board since 1994.
Icahn has opposed Talbert’s re-election. The activist investor has been campaigning for a higher dividend payout for more than a month and is calling for major changes to the Switzerland-based company’s board ahead of its annual meeting.
Icahn has also said the company’s mergers were “ill-advised” and its development strategies “unsuccessful.”
Transocean grew out of a series of mergers that started with the purchase by Birmingham, Alabama-based Sonat Offshore Drilling of Norway’s Transocean ASA in 1996. Three years later came the takeover of Sedco Forex, spun off by oil services giant Schlumberger, before a blockbuster deal with GlobalSantaFe in 2007 created an industry leader.
Icahn, who owns about 5.6 percent of Transocean, wants the company to replace its directors, including the chairman. He requested shareholders to vote for his nominees, John Lipinski, José Maria Alapont and Samuel Merksamer.