Exxon Mobil Corp. chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson will retain both jobs at the world's biggest publicly traded oil company after a highly public push to separate the roles failed again Wednesday.
Stripping Tillerson of the chairman's job in favor of an independent director was the main focus of the company's annual shareholder meeting at a downtown symphony hall. In the end, the measure got support of 39.5 percent of shareholders, slightly less than last year's 40 percent, despite a hard push by descendants of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Exxon Mobil predecessor Standard Oil Corp.
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A variety of institutional investors in the U.S. and abroad also backed the proposal.
After the meeting, Tillerson, who's held both positions since 2006, said continued strong support to change company leadership — despite massive profits in recent quarters — was not lost on him.
“It just re-emphasizes to me the importance of our continuing efforts to communicate better with shareholders and with the public and with policymakers,” Tillerson told reporters at a news conference.
That said, none of the 17 shareholder proposals considered at the three-hour meeting received enough support to pass, and all were opposed by the Exxon Mobil board.
During the gathering, Peter O'Neill, a great-great- grandson of John D. Rockefeller, said “We're very, very pleased with the performance that the company has been delivering.”
But Rockefeller family members and others have said they're concerned Irving-based Exxon Mobil is too focused on short-term gains from soaring oil prices and should do more to invest in cleaner technology for the future. Some shareholders lambasted the company for not doing enough now to reduce harmful greenhouse-gas emissions.
“All of Exxon Mobil's acknowledged strengths are no guarantee it will remain flexible and visionary in light of the changing energy realities that lie ahead,” O'Neill said. “That's why we support our company having an independent chair. We are looking forward.”
Exxon Mobil has said Rockefeller family members who have filed or co-filed shareholder resolutions own a total of about 332,000 shares out of about 5.3 billion shares outstanding.
Everyone seemed to agree it would be hard to top the company's financial results. Exxon Mobil posted the largest annual profit by a U.S. company — $40.6 billion — in 2007. And, lifted by record crude prices, it earned another $10.9 billion in the first three months of this year — the second-biggest U.S. quarterly corporate profit ever.
As he has in the past, Tillerson said Exxon Mobil will continue to spend the bulk of its profits on finding and producing new supplies of crude oil and natural gas.