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At ExxonMobil, mandatory retirement, sort of

By Gary Jacobson

April 14, 2008 at 9:34am

ExxonMobil has a mandatory retirement age — 72 — for non-employee members of its powerful board of directors. But it’s really not mandatory.

Two directors hit that milestone and are not standing for re-election at the company’s annual meeting next month: Former J.C. Penney CEO William Howell and former Scott Paper CEO Philip Lippincott.

But two other directors, also 72, are still on the ballot: former Chase Manhattan CEO Walter Shipley and former Corning CEO James Houghton.

In its annual proxy statement released last week, ExxonMobil acknowledged that Shipley and Houghton are “on an exception basis at the request of the Board.”

Another board member, ExxonMobil executive vice president, J. Stephen Simon, has also reached retirement age and is leaving the board, the company says. Simon, you may recall, represented ExxonMobil, at the Congressional hearing about high oil company profits earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

It makes sense for the company to stagger retirements. If Shipley and Houghton were leaving the board, too, that would make five in one year, extremely high turnover in such a stable operation.

The one new nominee on the director ballot is former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre Jr.

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