OUTGOING Bowleven chief executive Kevin Hart has defended the performance of the company in his ten years in charge noting it found a lot of oil and gas off Cameroon but was frustrated by geopolitical factors.

Speaking after Edinburgh-based Bowleven said his contract would be terminated today, Mr Hart noted: “We had a lot of success, we found a lot of hydrocarbons but we all underestimated how difficult it would be to monetise discoveries.”

Mr Hart’s departure follows a bruising battle with a dissident investor behind a campaign for a boardroom cull and change of strategy at Bowleven, which reached a conclusion yesterday.

Bowleven said its chairman Billy Allan had resigned after 18 months in post and the employment contracts of Mr Hart and finance director Kerry Crawford had been terminated with effect from today, without elaborating.

Shareholders voted for Mr Hart and Ms Crawford to be removed from the board with three other directors on 14 March. Resolutions calling for their removal were proposed by Monaco-based Crown Ocean Capital.

A resolution proposing that Mr Allan be ousted was defeated.

Crown Ocean started agitating for changes to be made to Aim-listed Bowleven’s board in November.

Mr Hart said: “These last few weeks have been hard work, it’s been a tough old battle,” adding: “I need a bit of a breather.”

The former investment banker will take a break before deciding what to do next. A return to the oil and gas industry is likely.

With only chief operating officer David Clarkson left in place of the old Bowleven board, some may feel Crown Ocean has won.

The investment firm and Bowleven conducted an increasingly bitter war of words after Crown Ocean raised the stakes in January by calling for the removal of all Bowleven’s directors except Mr Clarkson.

Crown Ocean accused Bowleven of a catastrophic financial performance and said the company was at risk of wasting its remaining cash reserves, which stand at around $90 million.

It wanted the firm turned into a holding company which could return excess cash to investors.

Under Mr Hart’s leadership, Bowleven said Crown Ocean wanted to turn the company into a cash dispenser for its own benefit and lacked a strategy to maximise value from the company’s assets in Cameroon

Mr Hart noted Crown Ocean acquired a shareholding which gave it a big influence on the outcome of this month’s meeting.

Crown Ocean, which is owned by German financiers Christian Petersmann and Konstantin Stoyanov, had a 22 per cent stake when the meeting was held, since upped to 23 per cent. Only 56 per cent of the shares in issue were voted on the resolutions proposed by Crown Ocean, which needed a simple majority to be passed.

The institutions that voted gave overwhelming backing to management.

Mr Hart said Bowleven had achieved much with a strategy focused on exploration in Cameroon.

The IM5 discovery in 2013 underlined the potential to produce lots of oil and gas from the Etinde permit off Cameroon.

“It’s a world class asset,” said Mr Hart. “If it was in the North Sea it would have been developed five years ago.”

Geopolitical factors made it hard to get the partners in the permit aligned. Cameroon’s government wants to develop gas for local use but the economics do not look attractive.

Bowleven kept a 20 per cent stake after selling interests in Etinde to Cameroon’s New Age and Russia’s Lukoil for $250m in 2014. New Age became operator.

Mr Hart said:: “Are we any further forward than when they took the reins? If we are it’s not a long way forward.”

Noting he has a big holding in Bowleven, Mr Hart added: ”I’m a great believer in Etinde and in Bowleven and the team.” Bowleven employs 20 people in Edinburgh.

Mr Hart joined Bowleven in 2006 from Cairn Energy, which went on to make big finds off Senegal.

Mr Allan was succeeded by corporate lawyer Christopher Ashworth who was voted on to the board along with Eli Chahin. Crown Ocean proposed the appointment of the two directors, who will run Bowleven with Mr Clarkson. Bowleven has launched a strategic review.

Crown Ocean had requisitioned a second general meeting, at which it wanted shareholders to vote Mr Allan off Bowleven's board and to appoint two further directors. A spokesman for Crown Ocean said the requisition is being withdrawn.