Human resources

Looney To Succeed Dudley as BP CEO

Dudley’s retirement will end an almost decade-long tenure in which he oversaw the company through the aftermath of the Macondo disaster and a generational oil-price slump.

Source: BP.

BP confirmed on 4 October the retirement plans of Chief Executive Bob Dudley and said that Upstream Chief Executive Bernard Looney will be his successor.

Looney will take over leadership of the British major and join its board on 5 February 2020, at which point Dudley will also step down from the board. Dudley will officially retire on 31 March.  

Starting immediately, Lamar McKay, currently deputy group chief executive, will serve as chief transition officer, where he will support BP Chairman Helge Lund and Looney during the leadership transfer. McKay is stepping down as deputy group chief executive.

BP said the moves come after “a comprehensive and deliberate search process, including consideration of a range of internal and external candidates.”

Dudley, who spent four decades at BP, took over as CEO just 5 months after the 2010 Macondo well control incident and oil spill in the deepwater US Gulf of Mexico and led the company through a generational oil-price slump that began just a few years later. The Macondo spill resulted in a $20-billion penalty levied by the US government, with total costs related to the incident ballooning to around $70 billion and putting the company on tenuous financial footing.

Dudley “was appointed chief executive at probably the most challenging time in BP’s history,” said Lund in a press statement announcing the change. “During his tenure he has led the recovery from the Deepwater Horizon accident, rebuilt BP as a stronger, safer company and helped it re-earn its position as one of the leaders of the energy sector.”

Looney (left) will become BP CEO on 5 February 2020. Dudley (right) will officially retire 31 March. Source BP.


Since that time, Dudley has overseen numerous divestments and acquisitions resulting in an overhaul of the BP’s upstream portfolio. Between 2015 and July 2019, BP added a net 6.5 billion BOE of oil and gas resources while buying and selling assets, data from consultancy Rystad Energy indicate.  

Most recently, the company sold its Alaska business, including its stake in the historic Prudhoe Bay field, to privately held Hilcorp Energy for $5.6 billion. That marked BP’s largest sale since buying most of BHP Billiton’s US shale assets in 2018 for $10.5 billion, a move that substantially increased its holdings in the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale of Texas and the Haynesville Shale of Texas and Louisiana.

Like other European majors, the company in recent years has also increased its investment in low-carbon energy, which Looney is expected to continue. “As the company charts its course through the energy transition this is a logical time for a change. Bernard has all the right qualities to lead us through this transformational era,” said Lund.  

Looney has run BP’s upstream business since April 2016 and has been a member of the company’s executive management team since November 2010. The upstream unit includes some 17,000 people operating across almost 30 countries and produces around 2.6 million BOE/D.

In earlier upstream executive roles, he was responsible for all BP-operated oil and gas production worldwide and for all of the company's drilling and major project activity. He led the creation of central drilling and projects functions following the Macondo incident. 

Looney joined BP in 1991 as a drilling engineer and worked in operational roles in the North Sea, Vietnam, and the Gulf of Mexico, including as drilling engineer on the discovery of the giant Thunder Horse field.  After a period at BP Alaska, he became head of the group chief executive's office, working directly for CEOs Lord Browne and Tony Hayward.

Looney will receive an annual salary of £1.3 million, which does not include bonuses.