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I was written off in my 40s, says outgoing Shell boss Ben van Beurden

Turnaround: Ben van Beurden with his wife Stacey

I was struck off in my 40s, says outgoing Shell boss Ben van Beurden: The oil industry titan has the final say

  • Ben van Beurden says his brilliant career nearly derailed two decades ago
  • He was told he didn’t have what it takes to make it to the top

He is one of the most powerful business leaders on the planet, with a salary of £6m in 2021.

But, in a candid admission that will touch anyone who feels their talents are being overlooked at work, Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden says his glittering career was almost derailed two decades ago.

The Dutch oilman says when he was in his 40s he was told at an assessment center for leadership training that he didn’t have what it takes to reach the top.

Turnaround: Ben van Beurden with his wife Stacey

Turnaround: Ben van Beurden with his wife Stacey

He describes the encounter as a “total train wreck” which left him in shock.

He says: “It became clear that I had gaping holes in my CV and my skills, so the feedback was, ‘That’s the end of the road for you, my friend. In fact, we don’t quite understand how you got here in the first place.

Van Beurden had worked at Shell for 17 years in various technical roles when he was invited to the assessment center, when he landed his first commercial job with the liquefied natural gas sales group in Mexico.

The 64-year-old, who became chief executive of the Anglo-Dutch energy giant in 2014 and left the group yesterday, then proved that verdict spectacularly wrong.

In an interview published on Shell’s website, he also reveals that his wife Stacey, like many women, doubted having her husband home all day after retirement, regardless of his elated status.

His fears, he says, were allayed by the fact that he spent more time at home during the pandemic shutdowns.

He says: “I remember three or four months later my wife said, ‘I’m not so afraid of your retirement with you all the time at home, I think that could work out really well.

The father-of-four says he won’t be retiring for good – planning to take up to a year off.

“It’s a bit scary, but I like the prospect of having six or 12 months enjoying life in a completely different way, rather than trying to get job satisfaction,” says -he.

He says he regrets only being able to finish about two books a year as managing director, in addition to reading working papers and emails. He also wants to spend more time playing golf.

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