New Glencore chief Tony Hayward opposed by investors

Tony Hayward

Tony Hayward's appointment as chairman of Glencore Xstrata is causing controversy in the City, with some investors ready to demand meetings with top officials from the commodities conglomerate.

One institutional investor has sold off its entire holding in the business over concerns that Hayward – the former boss of BP who was forced out of the oil multinational in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago – is to take over as chairman of the company created through the controversial merger of Glencore and Xstrata.

Some investors had wanted a chairman from outside the business to be appointed in an attempt to refresh the boardroom. Glencore is the only FTSE-100 company with no female directors, despite calls by the business secretary, Vince Cable, for 30% of the seats in FTSE-100 boardrooms to be held by women.

Hayward was already on the board and has been acting chairman since Sir John Bond was ousted at last year's annual general meeting.

Bond was unable to chair the meeting in Zug, Switzerland, a year ago because he had failed to be elected by big institutional investors who had cast their votes ahead of the meeting. Some 80% of investors had voted against Bond, who used to run HSBC and was also chairman of Vodafone, and Hayward stepped in on the day to chair the meeting and to temporarily take the helm of the commodity company.

The latest controversy is taking place just before his year's annual meeting – scheduled for Tuesday in Zug. Hayward was named permanent chairman last week.

A well-known fund management group said: "We have sold our holding [in Glencore] because we think external investors made it clear that Tony Hayward was not their choice. His appointment suggests a company that is public but feels like it is being run as a private company."

Many investors will have already cast their votes by proxy ahead of this year's AGM, with expectations that investors may express their disillusionment by voting against Hayward's election to the board or against the chair of the nomination's committee, Peter Grauer. They might also refuse to approve the report and accounts.

Hayward is best known for his time at BP where he caused controversy by saying "I want my life back" in the midst of the oil spill that polluted the Gulf of Mexico and killed 11 people. Hayward left BP in July 2010.

When his permanent appointment was announced last week, Grauer had described him as the "outstanding candidate to take on the role permanently.

"We continue to look forward to harnessing his in-depth knowledge of the resources industry and of listed company governance to underpin the mandate given to him as chairman to lead the board in helping to deliver long-term, sustainable returns for shareholders," Grauer said.

The company declined to comment further, but at the time of Hayward's appointment said there had been an "extensive search process".

It has been reported that there were two other candidates for chairman: the former BG boss Sir Frank Chapman and Roger Agnelli, former boss of the iron-ore miner Vale.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jill Treanor, for The Guardian on Thursday 15th May 2014 20.34 Europe/London

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