Terry Macalister

Jeroen van der Veer might have expected to step down as Shell chief executive in June showered in praise for resurrecting one of the world’s biggest, although heavily tarnished, corporate brands.

But while the durable Dutchman has returned some lustre to the image of the global oil group over recent years, he will end on a low note amid a blizzard of bad publicity.

It has certainly been a long and winding journey for the 62-year-old oilman who once told the Guardian that he preferred riding his bike to work because petrol was too expensive.

He had been promoted to the top job in 2004 after the Anglo-Dutch company threw out his predecessor, Sir Phil Watts, for presiding over an overstatement of oil reserves in submissions to the U.S. regulator, the Securities & Exchange Commission.

While the green lobby can be dismissed by Van der Veer and his army of public relations officials, it is harder for Shell to ignore the opinions and votes of its shareholders.

Just under 60 per cent of Shell shareholders at simultaneous meetings in The Hague and London this month voted down its plans to award millions of pounds of shares to executives despite having missed performance targets — the failure should have reduced the payout to zero. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009