- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s largest company by market value, is taking on nuns, pension funds and heirs to its founder in battles over global warming and the power of its chief executive officer.

The biggest U.S. oil producer is urging investors at Exxon Mobil’s annual shareholders meeting today in Dallas to vote against a resolution that would bar its CEO from serving as chairman. Supporters of the measure, including the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and descendants of founder John D. Rockefeller, want an independent chairman to work faster to combat climate change.

CEO Rex Tillerson, who led Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil to a record $40.6 billion profit last year as crude prices jumped 57 percent, should spend more on oil alternatives, said Peter O’Neill, great-great-grandson of John Rockefeller. The proposal to split the leadership roles was supported by 40 percent of shareholders last year, up from 34.3 percent in 2006.

“I don’t understand why they’re not investing more in alternatives,” said Mr. O’Neill, who leads a Rockefeller family committee dealing with Exxon Mobil issues. “I want shareholder value to increase, and I think it can if they make incremental changes and diversify into other areas,” he said.

Mr. O’Neill said he met with Exxon executives in the past two years to discuss petroleum alternatives. Citing a confidentiality agreement, Mr. O’Neill declined to disclose details such as research budgets or what type of alternative fuels the company is pursuing. Alan Jeffers, an Exxon spokesman, said the company regularly confers with shareholders and doesn’t comment on individual meetings.

The company, which traces its roots to the 1880s and Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust, failed to replace 24 percent of the oil and gas it pumped in 2007, the worst performance in three years. Mr. Tillerson is spending almost $480 million a week this year in Exxon Mobil’s costliest bid to boost reserves and output.

Mr. Tillerson, 56, a University of Texas-trained engineer, also is engaged in a $12 billion legal wrangle with Venezuela over an oil field seizure, labor talks in Nigeria and disputes over $18.3 billion in natural-gas projects in Russia and Alaska.

The 12 Rockefellers who have voting power on Exxon Mobil stock and signed on to the chairman-CEO resolution own 332,174 of the company’s 5.4 billion shares. The 0.006 percent stake is worth about $30 million. John D. Rockefeller died in 1937.

Exxon Mobil’s board would have to reconsider its rejection of the proposal if the resolution wins more than 50 percent support. Mr. Tillerson is the only member of management on the board.

Sixteen of the 20 largest U.S. companies by market value have chief executives who are also chairmen, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.



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