Germany's Schroeder steps down at BP's Russia venture
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is stepping down as an independent director at BP's Russian joint venture TNK-BP, amid continued reported tensions between the company's owners, the company said Monday.
"Two independent non-executive directors, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and James Leng, announced ... that they would be stepping down from the TNK-BP Limited board at the end of 2011," a statement said, without giving any explanation.
Press reports, however, said the decision reflected continued sharp tensions between BP and its Russian partners in the joint venture, a group of tycoons grouped in the Alfa-Access-Renova (AAR) consortium.
Long strained, the two sides fell out further over a BP deal with Russia's state-owned Rosneft group to explore and develop Arctic oil resources.
The tycoons said they should have had a right of first refusal on the Rosneft deal, which eventually fell apart due to their opposition, only for US giant ExxonMobil to step in.
AAR has since sued BP over the Rosneft plan.
The Vedomosti daily said Schroeder was stepping down because he did not want to get caught up in the crossfire between the two sides.
"Schroeder said that the work of an independent director is to improve the workings of the company and not to be called on to express an opinion in a conflict," the newspaper cited a source as saying.
"James Leng shared this view," the source said.
In October, TNK-BP announced the resignation of Deputy Chairman Maxim Barsky, who had been expected to become the next chief executive, in the fallout from the Rosneft deal.
Barsky's emerged as the likely next leader after the firm's US-born chief executive Bob Dudley was expelled from Russia during another heated battle with AAR in 2008.
© 2011 AFP