Kathryn Mikells, former CFO of Xerox, ADT and United Airlines, will be moving into the finance chief role of Irving, Texas-based Exxon on August 9, the company said Monday.
Mikells arrives from her latest role as CFO of British beverage giant Diageo, where she’d been since 2015. At Exxon, she will succeed Andrew Swiger, who, after over 40 years with the company, is set to retire.
- External hires are rare at Exxon, an oil company that has tended to promote from within. This is especially true for senior-level management positions, which is internally referred to as the “God pod,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Mikells will be its first female senior vice president, and the first C-level executive without a background in oil, natural gas or chemicals, Bloomberg reported.
At Diageo, Mikells is credited with cutting costs while reshaping the company’s iconic portfolio. During her tenure, Diageo bought Casamigos tequila and Aviation American Gin. It also sold several rum and vodka brands to Sazerac for $550 million.
“We welcome Kathy to ExxonMobil and look forward to the perspective and experience she brings as we work together to deliver on our strategies and increase shareholder value,” chairman and CEO Darren Woods said in a statement.
Mikells is joining Exxon at a critical juncture; the company has spent the past year under pressure from investors and stakeholders regarding its position in a rapidly evolving energy landscape. At a May meeting, stakeholders shot down three of Exxon’s board nominees, and a hedge fund called Engine No. 1 was able to fill those three seats despite owning 0.2% of its stock, the Journal reported.
Engine No. 1 said Exxon needed outside perspectives in order to execute a transition to lower carbon energy sources. It also criticized Exxon’s financial planning and capital allocation, in a report on its website, adding that the company’s poor investment strategy has weakened its balance sheet and its standing on the S&P 500.