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TNK-BP Says CFO Resigns Over Shareholder Dispute

Russia -- The office of British-Russian oil giant TNK-BP in central Moscow, 19Mar2008

Russia -- The office of British-Russian oil giant TNK-BP in central Moscow, 19Mar2008

MOSCOW -- James Owen, chief financial officer of BP's Russian oil joint venture TNK-BP, has resigned, citing a conflict between the British major and its partners, TNK-BP said in a statement.

"Mr. Owen's letter states that as the current shareholder issues remain unresolved he feels it is difficult for him to continue working independently, as his role demands," TNK-BP said in an August 4 statement.

BP and its partners, a quartet of Soviet-born billionaires who share control of TNK-BP 50-50 with the British major, have been locked in a dispute over the firm's strategy and management control over the past months.

A source close to TNK-BP said Owen's resignation, effective at the end of August, had nothing to do with newspaper reports that BP and its partners had agreed a peace deal involving a wholesale management change at the Russian unit.

"They have only agreed a list of questions to be discussed in order for a cease-fire to be agreed," the source said.

BP's partners say the ouster of Chief Executive Robert Dudley is a nonnegotiable condition of a peace deal.

Two of the shareholders have senior management positions and their umbrella group, Alfa-Access-Renova, has said they would step down if BP consented to withdraw its appointee Dudley.

Dudley, unable to renew his visa, left Russia late last month citing a campaign of harassment against himself and the company. He remains chief executive and is running the company from an undisclosed location.

"Along with many others in TNK-BP, I greatly regret that we are losing Jim," Dudley said in the statement. "Our company's financial standing and internal governance processes have been greatly strengthened under his management and he will be very hard to replace."