Paddy Rodgers’ decision to stand down as chief executive of tanker giant Euronav later this year came as a surprise to the market and colleagues.
There was talk of some staff being “dumbfounded” when they heard the news, which broke to the wider industry first thing on Monday morning.
Rodgers has led consolidation of the crude tanker market in recent years to become one of shipping’s highest profile and most eloquent public figures after nearly 20 years in his post.
Not only did he successfully steer the company away from the collapse that befell several rivals, he made big mergers while maintaining a strong balance sheet and a disciplined approach to corporate governance.
'Hard act to follow'
“He will be a hard act to follow,” said one executive who knows him well. “In the public debating arena, you would hate to come up against him. He will have an awful lot of opportunities.”
Amit Mehrotra, transport and shipping analyst at Deutsche Bank, was surprised by the decision but described Rodgers as "one of the good guys in our industry".
"While we have had our differences with CEO Rodgers’ views in the past, we always respected him as one of the best stewards of capital in the shipping industry," Mehrotra said.
The evening before the announcement, Rodgers was in relaxed mood, happy to reflect on his past and future over a ginger beer at his local pub in London.
He was as keen to discuss his newfound passion for horse riding at his local charity-run urban city farm as he was talking about the debate on the use of exhaust gas scrubbers to comply with the IMO 2020 fuel rules — a topic in which Rodgers has taken a campaigning stance.
A lawyer by training, Rodgers pitched the decision to stand down as largely his own and said it was made in full consultation with his board, and not directly linked to Euronav’s recent financial performance or scrubber strategy. He said he personally felt it was time for a change.
Rodgers' departure was “symptomatic of where the business is going — consolidation; people simply want cheaper competitive freight”, said a shipping executive, who declined to be identified.
Euronav is starting a search for Rodgers' successor to be in place by the end of this year. Rodgers paid a compliment to Euronav chief financial officer Hugo de Stoop, saying he would be potentially a very strong internal candidate since the company “might struggle to find someone better”.
“I’m hugely proud of the team and the company I’ve helped build over these years, but there comes a time to hand over the reins to someone new,” Rodgers told TradeWinds.
“I started in 1995 before becoming CEO in 2000, and it’s now five years since the Wall Street IPO [initial public offering]. This company has achieved a great deal and can do a great deal more.”
Euronav chairman Carl Steen said: “We respect Paddy’s decision to step down after transforming Euronav under his stewardship.
"Euronav is in a strong position with sector low leverage, substantial liquidity and operational flexibility to take on the challenges from the tanker market going forward.
"Euronav’s strategy remains unchanged, and the board and management team look forward to building on the legacy created by Paddy.”