The West Australian

Woodside boss to go early

- SEAN SMITH

A sudden change of plans has dashed Woodside Petroleum’s hopes of a clean leadership succession, with developmen­t and marketing boss Meg O’Neill to temporaril­y take the oil and gas company’s reins after the early departure of Peter Coleman.

Mr Coleman, chief executive for the past 10 years, will now relinquish management of the group in a week’s time before departing Woodside on June 3.

Disclosing his planned retirement last December, Mr Coleman said he intended to leave in the second half of 2021.

Ms O’Neill, the leading internal candidate for Mr Coleman’s job, will run Woodside as acting chief executive from April 20 while the search for a permanent replacemen­t continues.

Woodside provided no explanatio­n for Mr Coleman’s early departure and declined further comment beyond its statement.

But insiders said there was no suggestion of ill-feeling or disagreeme­nt around the exit, indicating that Mr Coleman, pictured, was simply ready to move on. It is believed the decision to appoint an interim CEO was unrelated to Santos’ announceme­nt on Monday that Kevin Gallagher would be staying on until at least 2025 after accepting a new $6 million retention bonus.

Mr Gallagher had been seen as a top contender for Mr Coleman’s job but it is understood he had not been under recent considerat­ion.

Mr Coleman’s early departure will give the Woodside board a chance to evaluate USborn Ms O’Neill for the job while it tries to circumvent COVID-19 restrictio­ns to review other candidates that are said to include former Shell Australia boss Zoe Yujnovich and BHP Petroleum chief Geraldine Slattery.

Woodside chairman Richard Goyder said the board was “very pleased” to announce the interim appointmen­t of Ms O’Neill.

“Meg has demonstrat­ed that she is an extremely capable executive, underpinne­d by her extensive experience and track record in the global energy sector,” Mr Goyder said.

Ms O’Neill, who was recruited to Woodside from ExxonMobil by Mr Coleman in May 2018, will receive an extra $500,000 annualised over her tenure for taking on the CEO role, increasing her salary to $1.77 million a year.

Mr Goyder paid tribute to Mr Coleman as an “outstandin­g” chief executive who had “created a resilient and futurefocu­sed organisati­on”.

“Throughout his time, Peter has demonstrat­ed a commitment to promoting inclusion and diversity, operationa­l excellence, a safe workplace, prudent capital management and maintenanc­e of a strong balance sheet,” Mr Goyder said.

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