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Oxy chief executive may leave post in 2011

Ray Irani is to announce next month that he will step aside, sources say. An Occidental Petroleum spokesman, however, says no decision had been made. Irani had drawn investor ire over his high pay.

September 01, 2010|By Ronald D. White

Amid an investor backlash against his high pay, Occidental Petroleum Chief Executive Ray Irani will announce next month at a board meeting that he is leaving that post, according to an investor and a company source who did not want to be named.

The sources said that Irani, 75, would name a date in 2011 for his departure as chief executive, but would remain on the board.

The pressure on Irani has been coming from large institutional investors who have been complaining for months about his compensation, which swelled by 39% last year to $34.4 million — far exceeding that of the heads of other large oil companies. And there was speculation that Irani's actual compensation was more than $50 million.

A company spokesman said Tuesday night that no decision had been made in regard to Irani. "We have absolutely no announcement to make, nothing has been decided," said the spokesman, who did not want his name used because he was not authorized to talk about the situation.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Tuesday that Irani would step down.

The backlash against him seemed to gather momentum in early August when two of the Los Angeles-based company's biggest institutional shareholders, the California State Teachers' Retirement Fund and the Relational Investors fund, told Occidental executives that they were targeting at least four members of the 13-member board of directors in an attempt to gain majority influence, the investor source said.

Both investors had been telling the oil company's officials for months that they were concerned about Occidental's executive compensation, and that they were dissatisfied with efforts to address those concerns.

If Irani does step aside, the company's chief operating officer, Stephen I. Chazen, would be his likely replacement.

Company executives have long praised Irani publicly as being worth his pay. Occidental ended 2009 with a record year-end stock price of $81.35 and record oil and natural gas production.

Many analysts consider Occidental one of the world's best-run oil companies. They have also credited Irani with having such good personal contacts in the Middle East that the company was able to negotiate good deals in spite of the fact that it was competing against far larger oil companies.

Irani has been chief executive since 1990.

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