Oil giant Shell may break with a century-old tradition and recruit a new chief executive from outside either the Netherlands or Britain. The prediction came yesterday after the company announced it was looking a replacement for Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive, who retires in 2009.

Already Shell has persuaded der Veer to sign a 12-month extension and continue the recovery plan that he put in place on taking over after the 2004 reserves scandal.

Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s head of exploration and production, is favourite to take over from Mr van der Veer. However, analysts said that the American Linda Cook, the head of Shell’s burgeoning gas and power business, is also a front-runner.

When he does finally retire to prune his roses, van der Veer’s pension pot will be over $20 million. Not bad eh?