Antonio Brufau, the oil industry’s longest serving chairman, will keep going despite an earlier pledge to step down from his position at Repsol SA.
Brufau was reelected by a majority of votes at the Madrid-based oil producer’s annual shareholders meeting on Thursday, granting him four more years overseeing a company that has undergone a sweeping transformation during his tenure. The exact amount of shareholders who backed him will be made public later.
Since his appointment in 2004, the former refining monopoly has fought off a takeover attempt, weathered the fallout from the nationalization of assets in South America and announced a major push into green energy.
Repsol said in 2019 that Brufau, 75, wanted the current four-year term to be his last. But widespread changes over the past 18 months among the company’s top ranks — including the departures of the head of upstream, the head of clean energy, and the head of communications and regulation — prompted a rethink. With a much younger executive committee running the company, the board decided to recommend that Brufau should stay on.
Brufau’s 18-year term makes him the third-longest serving chairman among 37 publicly-listed oil and gas companies that pump the equivalent of at least 100,000 barrels a day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Only the chairmen of Russia’s Gazprom PJSC and Novatek PJSC, both major gas producers, have held their positions for longer.
The most notable moments of Brufau’s tenure include the successful 2011 defense against an attempt by a Spanish construction tycoon Luis del Rivero and Mexican state-owned crude producer Pemex to unseat him and take control of Repsol.
The 2012 nationalization of YPF SA by Argentina was more of a setback for Brufau, who at the time was the executive chairman and chief executive officer. He had spent years trying to win over the left-leaning government in Buenos Aires, even agreeing to sell 25 per cent of YPF to local businessmen. But in 2012 the state seized YPF and its Spanish management had to leave the country.
When Argentina compensated Repsol in 2014 for the nationalization, Brufau used the funds to acquire a Canadian oil firm and gain access to shale fields in the US and oil-sands resources in Canada.
After handing over the CEO position to Josu Jon Imaz in 2014, Brufau still played a big part in the company’s 2019 decision to write down the book value of its oil assets by €4.8 billion ($5.2 billion) as it announced a stronger focus on the transition to clean energy and net-zero emissions. Repsol was the first big oil company to announce such a move, even though several of its larger peers have since surpassed its initial pledges.
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