Capricorn Energy: new CEO, chair, board take control

Edinburgh-based oil and gas firm Capricorn Energy late on Wednesday confirmed six new board members, with Craig van der Laan appointed the firm’s new chair and Chris Cox appointed interim chief executive officer.

Capricorn — formerly known as Cairn Energy — had faced growing opposition from shareholders, led by Palliser Capital, to its planned merger with Israel’s NewMed Energy, who argue that it undervalues Capricorn.

The new board said it will be conducting a comprehensive strategic review of Capricorn’s business and “several potential directions” for the future of the company.

The new leadership of the firm said Cox “brings to the board more than 40 years of experience in the global oil and gas upstream sector … having held various senior roles with BG Group, Amerada Hess, and Chevron throughout his career.”

They said Cox served most recently as CEO of Spirit Energy and MD of Centrica Plc. 

They said van der Laan joins the Capricorn board with nearly three decades of senior international executive experience across a wide range of industries – including multinational public companies at FTSE100 and ASX20 level – with exposure to operations in more than 50 countries.

“Most recently serving as CEO of the New South Wales Government’s Barangaroo Delivery Authority, Craig previously held several positions with the Brambles Group and senior executive and advisory roles with the Westfield Group, Transurban Group, CIMIC Group, Lend Lease Corporation, and the Foster’s Group,” the firm said.

Capricorn said in a stock exchange statement: “Following today’s general meeting, Capricorn confirms the appointment of six new members of the board of directors: Chris Cox, Maria Gordon, Richard Herbert, Hesham Mekawi, Tom Pitts, and Craig van der Laan.

“The new directors join sitting members Catherine Krajicek and Erik B. Daugbjerg to form a reconstituted board.

Subsequently, the new board met to agree immediate priorities and appointed Craig van der Laan as Capricorn’s chair, Chris Cox as Capricorn’s interim CEO and Richard Herbert as senior independent director.

The board will be conducting a comprehensive strategic review of Capricorn’s business and the several potential directions for the future of the company.

“These will be evaluated from the perspective of both maximising the company’s value and acting in the best interests of all stakeholders.  

“We will update the market as and when those discussions have concluded.

The board also recognises matters that require immediate attention, including the adjourned shareholder meeting on the proposed NewMed transaction and plans to consider a significant distribution of cash to shareholders in excess of operating requirements.

“The decision by the previous board to adjourn the general meeting to seek shareholder approval for the NewMed transaction, currently planned for 22 February 2023, provides an opportunity for the current board to evaluate the merits of the transaction and determine the best path forward/make a recommendation to shareholders.”

Craig van der Laan, Capricorn chair, said, “It is a privilege to have the opportunity to chair Capricorn at an important point in the company’s history.

“Each new member of the board joined Capricorn because we believe in the company’s potential and see untapped opportunities to maximise value.

This transition presents an opportunity for a fresh start: to identify what the company needs without preconceptions.

“As a first step to achieve this goal, we will conduct a thorough review of all available strategic directions before we determine the best path forward.

On behalf of the board, I would also like to thank Simon Thomson, who leaves the company today, for his contribution to this organisation over the last 27 years and wish him well in his future endeavours.”