Board of directors over 50 years

The board of Den norske stats oljeselskap a/s (Statoil) began life with a handful of male Norwegian directors in 1972. Over the years, it has been expanded to a couple of handfuls – up to 11 people at maximum – including women and foreign nationals.
By Björn Lindberg, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
- The Statoil board in 1974 with alternates and the CEO photographed during a visit to the Statfjord field. From left: county governor Einar H Moxnes, county council chair Ottar Vollan, Finn Lied (chair), Storting representative Kristin Lønningdal, Tore Sund, Hans Johan Ødegård, secretary Åse Gjerdsjø, CEO Arve Johnsen, Storting representative Ole Myrvoll and professor J A Kreyberg. Photo: Harry Nor-Hansen/Equinor

Statoil’s statutory general meeting on 18 September 1972 elected five directors. Jens Christian Hauge, a member of the Labour Party, was appointed chair. Vidkun Hveding from the Conservatives became deputy chair, with Labour’s Aksel Fossen and Conservative Per M Hansson as directors and Åge Solbakken as an alternate. Originally due to serve until the annual general meeting in 1975, this board was actually replaced by the general meeting on 21 June 1974.[REMOVE]Fotnote: An overview of Equinor’s board members over the past 50 years can be found here: Board members 1972-2022

Size and articles

The articles of association for the company specified in 1974 that the board would comprise seven directors elected by the general meeting. That number included two chosen from among six candidates nominated by and from among the employees, which was changed in 1977 to direct election by the workforce.

An expansion to eight directors occurred in 1986, and the number elected by the employees was increased the following year from two to three – giving nine members in all. From then on, the board has varied between nine and 11 directors.

Equinor’s latest articles of association, effective from 11 May 2022, specify that:

The board of directors of the company shall consist of 9-11 members. The board of directors, including the chair and the deputy chair, shall be elected by the corporate assembly. [Alternate] directors may be elected in respect of the directors elected by and among the employees in accordance with regulations stipulated in or pursuant to the Public Limited Companies Act. The board of directors may be elected for up to two years.

Two-thirds of corporate assembly’s members are elected by the general meeting, and one-third by the employees.

Not just Norwegian men

Well over 100 people in addition to alternates have served as directors of Statoil/Equinor since its foundation. Although diversity can naturally be measured by many different parameters, this article confines itself to gender and nationality. Up to July 2022, 87 men and 31 women have been directors. There have been 12 chairs (earlier chairmen), all males.

The first female director ­– Conservative politician Kristin Lønningdal – was elected as an alternate in 1974, while worker director Åse Gjerdsø was the first with a permanent seat in 1976. Just before the company celebrated its 25th anniversary, the board secured its first female deputy chair in the person of Ellen Mo. She has been followed by four others – Kaci Kullmann Five, Marit Arnstad, Grace Reksten Skaugen and Anne Drinkwater. Apart from Five, who served as acting chair in September-November 2003, the company has yet to have a female chair.

French Jérôme Contamine was the first foreigner elected to the board in 2000. Ten individuals from six nationalities apart from Norwegians – American, British, German, Canadian, French and Dutch – have subsequently been represented. Some have had dual nationality. Three of them have served as deputy chair.


Lill-Heidi Bakkerud. Photo: Øyvind Hagen/Equinor

Several people have been directors for long periods. Finn Lied was chair for a whole decade, from 1974 to 1983, while Marit Reutz (1987–96), Arnfinn Hofstad (deputy chair 1987–96), Roy Franklin (2007–12, then deputy chair 2015–18) and Stig Lægreid (2013–22) served for equal lengths of time.

Grace Reksten Skaugen spent 12 years on the board from 2002-13, while Bjørn Tore Godal has so far notched up no less than 14 years from 2010.

But worker director Lill-Heidi Bakkerud can indisputably claim the longest period of service. She was elected as an alternate in 1994, and became a full director in 1998-2002 and from 2004-16 – in other words, no less than 17 years. During that time, five CEOs – Norvik, Fjell, Øverland, Lund and Sætre – have reported to the board while Bakkerud was a member. Born in 1973, she qualified as a process technician and worked at the Rafnes petrochemical plants and on Gullfaks before becoming a full-time union official in Statoil. She represented the Norwegian Oil and Petrochemical Workers Union (Nopef), which became the Norwegian Union of Industry and Energy Workers (IE) in 2006. At the union’s 2017 national conference, she has elected vice president and still held that position at August 2022.


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