Controversial CNOOC adviser resigns from Goldman Sachs
Bei Hu and Eric Ng
Kenneth Courtis, a top Goldman Sachs executive and economist who had a controversial role as an independent non-executive director of China's dominant offshore oil producer CNOOC, is expected to leave the United States investment bank at the end of next month.
Mr Courtis, a vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs Asia, will leave the bank and set up consultancy Ken Courtis and Associates, according to an internal email sent to the investment bank's employees yesterday.
His departure is set to cause a stir in Asia's tightly knit investment banking community where he was already high-profile. His role with CNOOC, which failed in its bid to acquire US oil firm Unocal Corp, made media headlines.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal last year, CNOOC postponed the submission of a planned US$16.7 billion bid for Unocal in March last year because of Mr Courtis' opposition, even though the US investment bank is CNOOC's adviser and had pledged to finance the takeover bid.
Mr Courtis had wanted more time to study the plan, the paper quoted CNOOC advisers as saying.
The delay wiped out the first mover advantage of CNOOC, which began discussions with Unocal executives earlier than rivals Chevron Corp and ENI of Italy.
The postponement allowed Chevron to submit the first bid and, partly because of Mr Courtis' actions, CNOOC stood to bid about US$2 billion more for Unocal than earlier considered, according to the report.
However, a political anti-China backlash in the US was ultimately blamed for forcing CNOOC to withdraw the offer.
Mr Courtis also came under media scrutiny when his independence was challenged in 2004 by shareholder activist David Webb in his recommendation to CNOOC shareholders on a controversial deposit scheme with its parent firm, given Goldman's business relationships with CNOOC.
Last year, Mr Courtis left early from a board meeting discussing CNOOC's proposal to let its parent firm engage in competing projects. The proposal was voted down by shareholders.
Mr Courtis joined Goldman as vice-chairman for Asia and a managing director in January 2000.