Like a bat out of Shell

Oil giant likely to look within for replacement law boss after Rees walkout shocker

The surprise departure of Shell legal director Peter Rees QC sent shockwaves through the sector last week as lawyers pondered the whys and wherefores of his sudden exit.

Rees was credited with overhauling the FTSE 100 energy company’s legal department during his three year’s in the role; centralising the legal team and realigning its reporting lines into upstream and downstream, to mirror the company structure.

He also revamped the panel put in place by predecessor Beat Hess. In place of a micro-panel of five, Rees had a roster of more than 150 firms, including Allen & Overy, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, CMS Cameron McKenna, Debevoise & Plimpton, Dentons, Holman Fenwick & Willan, King & Spalding, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright and Simmons & Simmons.

While Shell is keeping schtum about the circumstances surrounding his departure, there is plenty of speculation in the energy sector that it may be tied to the appointment of chief executive Ben van Beurden, who joined the company on 1 January.

Where Rees’ successor will come from is another hot topic. While Rees joined from Debevoise & Plimpton and Hess from Zurich-based engineering group ABB, the smart money will be on an appointment from within. 

Times have changed at Shell and the streamlined legal structure installed by Rees has altered the GC job spec. International upstream GC Stephen Rees is most likely to take over, sources suggest. 

External advisers will be looking for a smooth transition.