Activist-backed directors win seats on Exxon board

US oil company ExxonMobil has been dealt a surprising blow by shareholders who elected two board members backed by an activist hedge fund.

ExxonMobil announced on Wednesday that preliminary results of a shareholder vote show that at least two of the four nominees supported by the hedge fund Engine No.1 were selected to the board of directors.

Exxon management had apparently asked shareholders not to support the fund's plan. But enough members defied the request to elect the candidates.

ExxonMobile Chief Executive Darren Woods said in a statement that "we welcome all of our new directors and look forward to working with them."

The Wall Street Journal described the outcome as a "historic defeat for the oil giant."