KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday announced the appointment of Datuk Shamsul Azhar Abbas as the president and CEO of Petronas, confirming weeks of speculation of an impending change of guard in the national oil company.
Shamsul, who was with Petronas until he retired in January last year, replaces long-serving president cum CEO Tan Sri Hassan Marican whose contract ends on Feb 9.
In a statement, Najib said that Shamsul, who will assume the position on Feb 10, will also be the acting chairman of Petronas.
“The government appreciates and thanks Hassan for his contribution to the nation and the petroleum industry. During his tenure, Petronas was recognised as a reputable company and continued to be the only Malaysian company to make the Fortune 500 list. Hassan was also instrumental in leading Petronas in its overseas
forays to compete with other oil majors,” Najib said in the statement.
The prime minister hoped that Hassan, with his vast knowledge and experience, would continue to contribute to the country’s development especially in the energy sector.
Sources said Hassan was offered a position as adviser to the prime minister in the oil and gas industry but he declined. “It would have been hard for him to accept as there is already an adviser for Petronas,” said a source. Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the Petronas adviser.
Shamsul’s last position was president and CEO of MISC Bhd, a subsidiary of Petronas. He joined Petronas in 1975 and served in various senior positions including vice- president of petrochemical, exploration and oil businesses.
Najib said he was confident that Shamsul with his experience and qualifications would continue to lead Petronas to achieve more successes.
The 57-year-old Shamsul was not one of the candidates supposedly earmarked by Hassan as his successor. It is said that there were three candidates identified for the post who are still serving in Petronas. They include Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin and Datuk Anuar Ahmad.
Shamsul was not among the early contenders but his name surfaced some three weeks ago. It has been reported that the prime minister met Shamsul, Wan Zulkiflee and Anuar before deciding on Hassan’s replacement.
Hassan, born on Oct 18, 1952 in Sungai Petani, Kedah, joined Petronas in 1989 as vice-president, finance. He was appointed as president cum CEO in 1995 and assumed the post of acting chairman in 2004 after the demise of Tan Sri Azizan Zainul Abidin.
After completing his early education at Malay College Kuala Kangsar, he moved to London to become a trained accountant.
He started his career at Touche Ross & Company, an accounting and auditing services provider, from 1972 to 1980. He later moved to Hanafiah Raslan and Mohamed and was made a partner within one year.
His appointment at Petronas came about after he was noticed by Azizan, who was then the president and CEO of the national oil company. In a lunch meeting at a hotel, Azizan and then Petronas’ chairman Tan Sri Basir Ismail were said to have virtually coaxed Hassan to join the state-owned firm. Then, Hassan was already familiar with Petronas finances as he was the external auditor.
In February 1989, Hassan, then 36 years old, joined Petronas as senior vice-president (finance and services). Very early on in his stint at Petronas, he was identified by Azizan to be his successor and groomed for the position.
Shamsul is also one of the people groomed by the late Azizan to take on bigger responsibilities in Petronas. He served as executive assistant to Azizan from end-1991 to early 1994.
During his stint at Petronas, Shamsul held various senior management positions including vice-president of petrochemical business, vice-president of oil business, vice-president of exploration and production business and vice-president of logistics and maritime business.
This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, February 4, 2010.