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Shell appoints Jorma Ollila as chairman

/ Source: The Associated Press

Royal Dutch Shell PLC said Thursday it has appointed the departing chief executive of Nokia Corp. to be its non-executive chairman as of June 2006.

Jorma Ollila, the longtime CEO who helped make Nokia the world’s No. 1 cellular telephone maker, is leaving the Finnish company after 20 years, 13 of them in the top job. He will replace Add Jacobs, who will retire after less than one year in the post at Shell.

Ollila is widely credited for streamlining management and instituting training programs that have kept Nokia, originally based in the small Finnish town of the same name, the most popular employer in Finland.

The appointment, which market analysts welcomed, is the latest management change amid Shell’s ongoing struggle to recover from a damaging scandal over the vast restatement of its energy reserves.

As a result, Shell merged its British and Dutch parent companies into a single entity beginning July 20, ending a century-old dual-corporate structure. It will be the first time a non-Dutch or British citizen takes up the non-executive position.

“We always said we would choose the best person and we were looking for someone with international standing and success in managing a big organization,” said spokeswoman Susan Shannon. “He was picked after a worldwide search and out of a dozen candidates from the U.S., U.K., Netherlands and continental Europe.”

Ollila, 54, transformed Nokia during his 13-year tenure as CEO into a highly profitable telecommunications company from a struggling manufacturer of tires and rubber boots.

Ollila moved up from the head of the mobile-phone division to CEO during a severe recession in Finland in 1992. Nokia’s market capitalization surged during his stewardship, rising to its current value of around $71.3 billion (58 billion euros).

“This is a wonderful opportunity with a great global company at a pivotal time for the energy industry,” Ollila said in a statement.

Investec Henderson Crosthwaite analyst Bruce Evers said Ollila’s appointment is an “extremely sensible move” even though Ollila lacks experience in the oil market. “He has a done phenomenal job at Nokia,” Evers said. “They took the best man for the job, wherever he was from.”