Photo: Petrobras

New CEO to take the helm at Petrobras

Following a spat over a hike in fuel prices, which ousted its previous Chief Executive Officer (CEO) from the office, Brazil’s state-owned giant Petrobras has elected a new member to its board of directors, paving the way for the latest edition to take over the CEO role at the company.

Growing political pressure pushed Joaquim Silva e Luna, Petrobras’ previous CEO, out of the office after only a year in the role. Luna’s toil and trouble came less than a month after Petrobras increased prices for both diesel and gasoline. The media speculations about his removal went rampant as the price increase raised the Brazilian president’s ire. Despite all the pressure, Luna was adamant about staying with the company at first, as reported by Reuters.

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However, regardless of Jair Bolsonaro’s vow that he will not intervene in the running of Petrobras, when a list of government-appointed board members was released on 28 March 2022, Luna’s name was not included. This move effectively ousted Luna from the CEO role, as Petrobras’ statutes clearly state that the firm’s CEO has to be a member of the board.

In addition, Petrobras confirmed that it received a letter from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, which nominated Adriano José Pires Rodrigues for the CEO position. The nomination was to be deliberated at a later date by the firm’s board of directors.

Before this could be done, Petrobras received two letters from the Ministry of Mines and Energy on 4 April 2022, confirming the withdrawal of Pires from the election to the board of directors and the nomination for the CEO position. At the time, the company did not receive any information about the replacement of this nominee.

A few days later, on 12 April 2022, the Brazilian giant revealed that the People Committee – in its role as Eligibility Committee (COPE/CELEG) – considered that the nomination of José Mauro Ferreira Coelho as a member of the board of directors meets the requirements set forth in the law without incurring any restrictions.

Moreover, it was explained that if Coelho is elected at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 13 April 2022, his nomination for the position of the firm’s CEO is apt to be appreciated by the board. The meeting of the new board of directors was scheduled for Thursday, 14 April 2022 to consider the nomination of Coelho for the CEO position while his inauguration – if elected – was scheduled for later in the afternoon.

Petrobras provided an official confirmation about Coelho’s election to the company’s board earlier on Thursday, explaining that eight new members of the board were elected. Aside from Coelho, these include Márcio Andrade Weber, José João Abdalla Filho, Luiz Henrique Caroli, Marcelo Gasparino da Silva, Murilo Marroquim de Souza, Ruy Flaks Schneider and Sonia Julia Sulzbeck Villalobos.

Once elected to the CEO position, Coelho will become Petrobras’ third CEO since 2021. The main reason for the CEO replacement in previous cases was also fuel prices, which is a sensitive topic for Petrobras. The company has experienced years of turmoil when it comes to its CEOs as a lot of them departed from the role for various reasons over the years, most notably, corruption accusations and protests.

A few mentions in this regard would be Ivan de Souza Monteiro – who announced his exit in November 2018, after taking over the CEO role in June 2018 following the resignation of Pedro Parente, which was caused by widespread protests organized by Brazilian truckers to object to Petrobras’ fuel price-setting policy.

To remind, Parente was named in 2016 to replace Aldemir Bendine, who took office in February 2015, after Maria das Graças Silva Foster – appointed in 2012 – resigned amid corruption accusations.

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When it comes to Petrobras’ exploration activities, the Brazillian giant made an oil discovery last week in a wildcat well, located in the pre-salt Campos Basin offshore Brazil. The firm also advised it will continue drilling until the final depth is reached to evaluate the new discovery and its quality.