|Employees don't support new chairman of StatoilHydro|
| [30.08.2007, 11:07pm, Thu. GMT]|
|The current CEO of industrial firm Norsk Hydro, Eivind Reiten, was elected Thursday to be the new chairman of the soon-to-be-merged StatoilHydro. Statoil's employees, however, voted against him. That doesn’t bode well for Reiten, who long had expected to become StatoilHydro's first chairman and would have preferred broad support. StatoilHydro is in the process of being formed through Statoil's acquisition of Hydro's oil and gas operations. The current Statoil CEO, Helge Lund, will have the same top post at the new firm.Statoil's employees, however, are sending a clear message that they don't have a lot of confidence in Reiten. They cite three main objections to his chairmanship of StatoilHydro.|
First, they see a possible conflict of interest since Reiten will continue as CEO of Hydro.
They also think it's too demanding for anyone to be both chairman of StatoilHydro and chief executive of Hydro, which will remain one of Norway's largest industrial concerns even after selling off its oil and gas business.
They also don't much like Reiten's support for high executive pay. His acceptance of lucrative stock options program at Hydro, which recently gave him a cash windfall by Norwegian standards, was decidedly unpopular among the rank and file.
It also didn't sit well with either Statoil or Hydro employees that Reiten granted his communications director, Cecilie Ditlev-Simonsen, a leave of absence with full pay after she admitted to tax evasion and then called the criticism she received "a huge strain" on her. Her "leave" status was switched to sick pay on Thursday, and Hydro's unions have made it clear they don't want her to return as communications director for the company.
The Statoil employees, who were allowed to vote on the chairmanship since Statoil is the acquiring company, said they nonetheless respected the "democratic process" that elected Reiten chairman of StatoilHydro by a vote of eight to four in its corporate assembly. Former oil and energy minister Marit Arnstad was elected vice-chairman while Elisabeth Grieg, Grace Reksten Skaugen, Kjell Bjørndalen, Roy Franklin and Kurt Anker Nielsen were elected as board members.