Suncor announced late Friday that CEO Mark Little is stepping down as president and chief executive officer, and resigning from the board.
Kris Smith, who is currently executive vice president, Downstream, was named interim CEO.
“Suncor is committed to achieving safety and operational excellence across our business, and we must acknowledge where we have fallen short and recognize the critical need for change,” said board chair Michael Wilson in a release. “We commend Mark for his professionalism and the exceptional work he did to guide Suncor through the pandemic and lead our sector’s progressive approach to the energy transition. We thank him for his years of service with the company and wish him well.”
“Kris is an accomplished executive with 22 years of experience across our business,” added Mr. Wilson. “He is a highly capable leader and has the Board’s full confidence to serve as Suncor’s Interim CEO.”
The release did not state a reason for Little’s departure.
In late April, activist investor Elliott Management called for changes to Suncor’s board and a review of its executive management. In a letter to the board, they criticized Suncor’s safety record. Since 2014, they said there have been 12 workplace deaths at Suncor sites, which Elliott said was more than all of the company’s closest peers combined.
An additional worker died Thursday at the Suncor Base Plant Mine north of Fort McMurray.
The US investment manager, which said it holds a 3.4 per cent economic interest in Suncor including shares and cash-settled derivatives contracts, wants to add five new independent directors to the Suncor board as part of other broad changes.
“Our investment in Suncor is underpinned by our conviction that, with the right leadership, the company can restore its prior success,” Elliott partner John Pike and portfolio manager Mike Tomkins wrote in their letter.
“Suncor’s integrated oilsands operations are a critical part of the global energy supply, and we believe these assets are dramatically undervalued.”
With files from The Canadian Press