BP Plc said Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley will retire early next year, a much-anticipated step after more than nine years at the helm of the oil and gas giant.
Dudley’s most notable achievement was rescuing the company in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico that caused the biggest oil spill in U.S. history and killed 11 people.
His tenure has been focused on restoring the company to the position it held before the accident as billions of dollars of penalties and compensation piled up.
The 64-year-old will step down as CEO following the publication of BP’s 2019 full-year results on Feb. 4 and will retire on March 31, the London-based company said Friday.
Bernard Looney, 49, currently head of the upstream division, will succeed him.
Speculation about Dudley’s resignation has been swirling for a while. Sky News reported last month that he was preparing to leave within a year and had held detailed discussions with Chairman Helge Lund about his retirement plans.
While the speed of the announcement is a surprise – Dudley said this week that the board hadn’t decided on the timing of his retirement – Looney’s ascent to the top of the company follows a well-trodden path. Dudley’s two immediate predecessors also ran the upstream division before becoming CEO.
Lamar McKay, currently deputy group chief executive, has agreed to serve as chief transition officer, BP said in a statement. In this role, which he’ll assume immediately, McKay will support the chairman and incoming group CEO.
BP shares in London have increased about 11% in the decade Dudley has been at the helm.
They’ve largely recovered from the oil-price collapse that began in 2014, which hit the company just as it was starting to emerge from the impact of the 2010 oil spill, adding to Dudley’s challenges as he was forced to cut spending and defer projects.
Looney has run BP’s upstream business since April 2016 and is responsible for all oil and gas exploration, development and production operations.
He has led the company into new countries including Mauritania and Senegal, and spearheaded the acquisition of U.S. assets from BHP Group Ltd. last year.
Looney “has deep experience in the energy sector, has risen through the ranks of BP, and has consistently delivered strong safety, operational and financial performance,” Lund said in the statement. He has “a clear sense of what BP must do to thrive through the energy transition.”