Royal Dutch Shell’s ‘Goldilocks’ Choice

Jorma Ollila, outgoing chief executive of Nokia, is a 'good choice' as Royal Dutch Shell's first external chariman, says Paul Rathbone at But even with his excellent track record of instigating corporate change, he may have difficulties.

Jorma Ollila, the outgoing chief executive of Nokia, is "a good choice" to become the combined Royal Dutch Shell's first external chairman, said John Paul Rathbone at

He "many not know much about oil", but he does know a lot about corporate change, having transformed Nokia from a "maker of Wellington boots and rubber tyres" into the world's largest mobile phone maker. He should help shake up the oil giant - "which has long been hamstrung by an introspective and convoluted management structure" - when he takes on his new post in June next year.

And if Ollila succeeds in duplicating the Nokia "mindset" at Shell, investors can look forward to being "well rewarded". During his time in charge, Nokia has paid out over 33% of earnings in dividends and spent "much of the rest" on buying back shares.

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Ollila's "strategic abilities are not in question," said Lex in the FT. Importantly, he is also Finnish. The newly unified Shell is "keen for its streamlined structure to be seen as neither too English nor too Dutch". But faced with Shell's "unattractive growth profile" and project delays, even he may have difficulty guiding the group "between high-priced acquisitions and a more aggressive return of cash to shareholders".

John Stepek

John is the executive editor of MoneyWeek and writes our daily investment email, Money Morning. John graduated from Strathclyde University with a degree in psychology in 1996 and has always been fascinated by the gap between the way the market works in theory and the way it works in practice, and by how our deep-rooted instincts work against our best interests as investors.

He started out in journalism by writing articles about the specific business challenges facing family firms. In 2003, he took a job on the finance desk of Teletext, where he spent two years covering the markets and breaking financial news. John joined MoneyWeek in 2005.

His work has been published in Families in Business, Shares magazine, Spear's Magazine, The Sunday Times, and The Spectator among others. He has also appeared as an expert commentator on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, BBC Radio Scotland, Newsnight, Daily Politics and Bloomberg. His first book, on contrarian investing, The Sceptical Investor, was released in March 2019. You can follow John on Twitter at @john_stepek.