Gunvor Loses Top Executive Schurink as Russia Asset Sales Loom

This content was published on January 6, 2015 - 12:33

(Bloomberg) -- Jerome Schurink, once the most publicly visible executive at Gunvor Group Ltd. behind co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Torbjorn Tornqvist, has left the commodity trading firm.

Schurink, previously Gunvor’s chief operating officer and chief investment officer, left the firm at the end of 2014, company spokesman Seth Pietras said by phone from Geneva. Pietras declined to comment on the reasons for the departure of Schurink, who was seconded to Singapore last year to oversee Gunvor’s expansion in Asia where it derives nearly a third of its revenue and trading volumes.

The management change comes as Gunvor continues to adjust to the departure of co-founder Gennady Timchenko. The Russian billionaire sold his 44 percent stake in March to Tornqvist, a day before he was sanctioned by the U.S. because of his close ties to President Vladimir Putin. The firm, which once handled almost one in every three barrels of crude Russia exported by tanker, says it plans to sell assets in the country, which now contributes less than 4 percent of its total trading volumes.

Schurink, a former finance director at Procter & Gamble Co., joined Gunvor in 2005 and served as chief financial officer for more than eight years. He took on the roles of COO and CIO in August 2013, overseeing the trading company’s investments in physical assets including refineries, ports and mines.

Schurink was CFO when Gunvor sold a $500 million bond in 2013 and was listed as the trading firm’s number two executive behind Tornqvist in a prospectus.

Keaton Energy

Schurink said in an e-mail that he left on “good terms” and remains a board director of a number of Gunvor-related companies. He declined to comment further, citing a confidentiality clause.

Schurink is chairman of PA Resources AB, the Swedish oil producer in which Gunvor is the largest shareholder, according to Pietras. He is also on the board of Keaton Energy Holdings Ltd., a South African coal miner.

Gunvor moved to reassure its lenders, trading counterparties and bond holders after Timchenko was sanctioned and the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement that Putin “has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds.” Gunvor has strongly denied that Putin has ever had any connection to the Cyprus-based firm, which has major operations in Geneva and Singapore.

Russian Crude

U.S. prosecutors are investigating whether Timchenko sought to launder tainted funds through the U.S. financial system, two people familiar with the matter said in November. Castor Americas Inc., a Gunvor unit, was served with subpoenas by U.S. prosecutors three years ago, according to the bond prospectus. Gunvor has said in previous statements that it has not been notified of any new investigation involving the company and is “caught in political crossfire.”

Timchenko and Swedish national Tornqvist founded what is now Gunvor in the late 1990s. The trading firm grew rapidly to become one of the top five independent oil traders as it won contracts to handle Russian crude produced by state-controlled OAO Rosneft.

Gunvor is reducing its ties to Russia and is selling assets including a stake in a coal mine, a pipeline and the Ust Luga terminal.

Jacques Erni remains as Gunvor’s CFO after succeeding Schurink in 2013, said Pietras. No other senior managers have recently left the company, he said.

Succession Planning

Tornqvist, 61, who controls about 87 percent of closely held Gunvor’s equity and 100 percent of its voting shares, has said the company’s ownership is too concentrated and is looking for new investors. Gunvor employees own the equity not controlled by billionaire Tornqvist.

Management succession planning has become a significant issue for commodity trading houses. Australian Jeremy Weir took over last year as CEO of Trafigura Beheer BV as Claude Dauphin, co-founder of the third-largest oil trader and second-largest metals trader, became executive chairman.

Mercuria Energy Group Ltd., the fourth-largest independent commodity trader, hired former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner Magid Shenouda as global head of trading in May. Shenouda is now the most senior executive at the firm behind co-founders Marco Dunand and Daniel Jaeggi.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Hoffman in Geneva at To contact the editors responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at Dylan Griffiths

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