Departing Euronav chief executive Hugo De Stoop was not “surprised” by the board’s decision to seek a new boss to take the company forward.

The Belgian tanker owner’s supervisory board announced on Tuesday that the near 20-year veteran is leaving by mutual agreement with immediate effect as the Fredriksen and Saverys shareholding groups seek a solution for its future direction.

De Stoop told TradeWinds: “It was certainly not a real surprise because it is very difficult for a CEO to continue to run the company when a 25%-plus shareholder no longer has trust in the CEO.

“So I think it’s pretty natural to find alternatives. They need to find an alternative who has the trust of all the shareholders and try to find solutions for the future of the company.”

De Stoop was caught up in the fall-out of the failed merger with John Fredriksen’s Frontline, blocked by the Saverys clan.

A majority of the board supported the decision to find a new chief executive. Fredriksen and the Saverys family have two board members each and there are three independents.

De Stoop said the details of who backed the move are confidential.

But he added: “Many people were happy with the job I had done so far, and everybody is more looking at the future. I don’t disagree that for the future of the company it’s probably better to have someone else. I totally understand that.”

He will be available in an advisory role to aid the transition, with chief financial officer Lieve Logghe taking on the CEO job on an interim basis.

De Stoop told TradeWinds he will help for “whatever time they need”.

Company will continue to thrive

“I always work in a very collegiate manner. I think the entire team can do it without me,” he said, revealing that he and his colleagues always said if “one of us was run over by a bus, the company would thrive and continue do very well”.

He would be very happy to help out with “one of two things” if Euronav needed him.

“I will always be there for the colleagues and for everyone, but I don’t think that it’s heavy-duty work, because of the way we work at Euronav — we have a very flat organisation,” he explained.

De Stoop said he has not thought any more about his future.

He joined Euronav in 2004 and was appointed deputy chief financial officer and head of investor relations, becoming CFO in 2008 and taking over as chief executive from Paddy Rodgers in 2019.

“After 20 years, the best thing I can do is to take time to reflect and indeed to try to find a good opportunity in the future. I’m not really worried, to be honest,” De Stoop told TradeWinds.

“There are so many things I have an interest in life. This is not a real concern for the moment but there will come a time when I will need to think about it.

“But for the time being I’m looking forward to taking that time and reflecting on everything.”