BlackRock appoints Aramco CEO to board amidst ESG debate

Silla Brush, Bloomberg July 19, 2023

(Bloomberg) – BlackRock Inc. has named Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Amin Nasser to its board, underscoring the asset manager’s commitment to the oil industry in the middle of a debate about its role in ESG investing.

headshot of Amin Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco
Amin Nasser, CEO of Saudi Aramco

Nasser has led the world’s biggest oil producer since 2015, including overseeing its public listing, and provides BlackRock with “a unique perspective” on key issues facing the company and its clients, CEO Larry Fink said Monday in an emailed statement.

Bringing Nasser onto BlackRock’s board “partly signals that we need oil and gas at the table if we are to make this transition work,” he said. But the move also “protects BlackRock from vultures questioning its public ESG stance, which in practice was never hard core.”

At times, Nasser has taken issue with the ESG movement, warning in February that an increased focus on environmental, social and governance metrics was undermining investment in oil and gas to the point of posing a threat to global energy security. He serves on several boards, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Presidential CEO Advisory Board and the JP Morgan International Council.

“His leadership experience, understanding of the global energy industry and the drivers of the shift toward a low-carbon economy, as well as his knowledge of the Middle East region, will all contribute meaningfully to the BlackRock board dialogue,” Fink said in the statement.

The appointment “raises an interesting question,” said Ulf Erlandsson, CEO of the Anthropocene Fixed Income Institute. “How should clients who exclude Aramco from their investment portfolios view the fact that Aramco is becoming an even more important voice at the service provider?”

Bader Al-Saad, Director General and Chairman of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, won’t stand for re-election to BlackRock’s board next year, according to the statement.

BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, has a $2.4 billion position in Aramco, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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