Exxon Mobil Corp. added two new directors to its board Monday, as the beleaguered energy company tries to fend off calls for change from a pair of activist investors. The Texas oil company said activist investor Jeffrey Ubben would join its board, along with Michael Angelakis, the chief executive officer of Atairos Group and former chief financial officer of Comcast Corp.
Exxon CEO Darren Woods said the new directors were part of a continuing effort to refresh the company’s board and reflected ongoing talks it is having with investors. “If you look at the changes we’ve been making, they are in response to the changing role of the industry as we head to a lower-carbon economy,” Mr. Woods said in an interview.
Exxon’s stock price was up nearly 5% in afternoon trading Monday. Still, the board changes are unlikely to satisfy one of the activist investors targeting Exxon. Engine No. 1 LLC, an activist fund founded by technology investor Chris James late last year, said Monday that it is moving forward with a planned proxy fight for four board seats.
Exxon posted a loss of $22 billion last year, its first annual loss in modern history, and some of the company’s largest investors have pressured it to disclose more about its carbon footprint and articulate a clearer energy transition strategy, as some countries attempt to wean themselves off fossil fuels.
Ubben founded Inclusive Capital Partners in 2020 after stepping away from ValueAct, the firm he founded in 2000. In his last few years at the firm, he oversaw ValueAct’s Spring Fund, which was focused on sustainable investing. Ubben is expected to become a significant Exxon shareholder over time, according to the sources. Ubben is no stranger to investing in oil and gas companies. While at ValueAct he took a stake in BP, saying traditional energy companies can belong in ESG portfolios.
Exxon has come under fire for failing to invest in the future of energy. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to invest $3 billion in carbon capture and other emissions-cutting technology.