Los Angeles Business Journal

Irani Forced Off Oxy Board

By Howard Fine Originally published May 3, 2013 at 2:16 p.m., updated May 3, 2013 at 2:36 p.m.

Ray Irani, former chief executive of Occidental Petroleum, was forced off the Westwood oil giant’s board on Friday.

Irani failed to secure enough votes from shareholders to retain his seat on the board. The vote came in advance of the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday, according to news reports. The company confirmed in an SEC filing that Irani was not among those receiving a majority of shareholder votes.

Irani, 78, has been executive chairman since May 2011 after a shareholder revolt fueled by criticism of his high compensation forced him to leave the chief executive post he had held since 1991; he had been scheduled to retire from the board at the end of 2014.

In March, news reports surfaced that Irani, dissatisfied over the decline in Occidental’s share price, was trying to oust current Chief Executive Stephen Chazen. The company – which had earlier announced it was launching a search for a new chief executive – denied there was a problem.

On Monday, Occidental announced that Stephen Chazen would remain chief executive through 2014 and also announced governance changes precluding Irani from returning to the chief executive post.

But that did not quell investor unrest over Irani’s continued role at the company. Several major shareholders – including the California State Teachers Retirement System – lined up their support behind Chazen.

Occidental also said longtime director Aziz Syriani submitted his resignation from the board on Thursday. Like Irani, Syriani, 70, is also of Lebanese descent; he joined the board in 1983, the same year Irani joined Occidental.

After the markets closed, Occidental announced that the board elected former Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian independent chairman and former U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham was independent vice chairman.

Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria and later Israel, has been an Occidental director since 1996. Abraham, who now heads his own international strategic consulting firm, Abraham Group LLC, joined the board in 2005.

Occidental shares closed up $2.67, or 3 percent, to $90.77 on the New York Stock Exchange.