DALLAS - Exxon Mobil Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Rex Tillerson will retain both of those jobs after a highly public, Rockefeller-led push to separate the roles failed again yesterday.
Stripping Tillerson of the chairman's job in favor of an independent director - that is, a person not in management - was the main focus of the company's annual shareholder meeting at a downtown Dallas symphony hall.
In the end, the measure won the support of only 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.
A variety of institutional investors in the United States and abroad also lined up behind the proposal. Many U.S. companies have been the subject of shareholder moves to separate the roles of chief executive and board chairman.
After yesterday's meeting, Tillerson, 56, who has held both positions since 2006, said continued strong support to change Exxon Mobil leadership - despite massive company profits in recent quarters - was not lost on him.
"It just reemphasizes 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.
This marked the seventh time the proposal to split the roles of chairman and CEO was considered.
During the gathering, Peter O'Neill, a great-great-grandson of John D. Rockefeller, said he spoke for a majority of the family when he wished Exxon Mobil continued success.
"We're very, very pleased with the performance that the company has been delivering," O'Neill said. It earned $40.6 billion last year, the largest profit ever by a U.S. company.
But Rockefeller family members and others have said they are concerned that the Irving, Texas, company 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 create far-reaching policies to reduce harmful greenhouse-gas emissions.
"It's crucial for every company to ask, 'Is it doing all it can to prepare for the future?' The Rockefeller family believes now is precisely the time for Exxon Mobil, with its strong financial performance, to take the long-term steps needed to increase shareholder value," O'Neill said.
"That's why we support our company's having an independent chair. We are looking forward," he said.
Exxon Mobil has said Rockefeller family members who have filed or co-filed shareholder resolutions own a total of about 332,000 shares. At the end of last year, Exxon Mobil had 5.3 billion shares outstanding.
As he has in the past, Tillerson said Exxon Mobil would continue to spend the bulk of its profit on finding and producing new supplies of crude oil and natural gas.
Exxon shares rose 63 cents yesterday to close at $90.43.
Exxon Mobil shareholders debated whether to split the roles of chairman and CEO, but no one questioned the company's financial performance.
Yesterday's closing stock price:
$90.43, up 63 cents.
52-week price gain:
$7.81, or 9.5 percent.
Price gain under Rex Tillerson:*
$27.68, or 44.1 percent.
$358.6 billion, up 7 percent from 2006.
$40.6 billion, up 3 percent from 2006.
40 cents a share quarterly, up 25 percent under Tillerson.
*He became chairman and CEO in January 2006.
SOURCE: Bloomberg News