Sir John Sawers joins the BP board as a non-executive member. During his career he has been Britain’s ambassador to the UN and its special representative in Iraq. Photograph: Elyse Marks/Edelman/PA
BP has hired the former head of MI6 as it seeks to capitalise on his earlier top-level diplomatic experience while dealing with some of the toughest political environments around the world.
Sir John Sawers, who was chief of the Secret Intelligence Service between 2009 and 2014, has joined the oil company’s board as a non-executive member.
BP’s chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, said the former spy chief “brings extensive experience of international affairs and geopolitics”.
Sawers’ five-year tenure as boss of MI6 spanned two prime ministers, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. He has 36 years of experience working for the UK government in international affairs and security.
He has served as the UK’s ambassador to the UN, as well as political director of the Foreign Office and Britain’s special representative in Iraq. He is chairman and partner of Macro Advisory Partners, which advises governments and companies on geopolitics and global markets.
BP’s appointment of Sawers, who will be paid £90,000 for his role, highlights the relevance of geopolitics to a company that is operational in about 80 countries including some of those with challenging political backdrops such as Russia and Iraq.
Last month, Standard Chartered appointed the former head of GCHQ Sir Iain Lobban to advise the bank’s board on financial crime.
Standard Chartered created its risk committee after a $670m (£424m) fine in 2012 for breaching US sanctions on Iran, for which the bank remains under scrutiny by regulators.
Alongside Sawers’ appointment, BP announced that it had also appointed Paula Rosput Reynolds as a non-executive director. Reynolds has more than 25 years’ experience in the energy sector, including as president and chief executive of US gas distributor AGL Resources.
BP was forced to cut its dividend following the spill, but last month sought to reassure investors that the company was sound business-wise despite low oil prices when it announced first-quarter results. BP announced a quarterly dividend of 10 cents a share, unchanged from the previous quarter.The appointments come at a key time for BP’s chief executive, Bob Dudley, who is attempting to restore the company to full health following the devastating Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.
First-quarter profits beat City forecasts because BP benefited from a one-off gain from UK government’s changes to the taxation of North Sea oil operations.
The oil company said profit excluding non-operating items and accounting effects for the first three months of 2015 fell by 20% to $2.6bn (£1.6bn).
It was the first quarter to reflect the full impact of the sharp fall in oil prices, but the profit was still double the $1.3bn expected by City analysts.