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Marathon Taps Formula 1 Fan From Exxon to Follow Cazalot

Marathon Oil Corp., the U.S. oil producer that has been expanding exploration from Ethiopia to Texas, picked as its next chief executive officer the Exxon Mobil Corp. engineer who helped oversee the global portfolio of the world’s largest energy company.

Lee M. Tillman, 51, formerly Exxon’s vice president of engineering, will succeed Clarence Cazalot as Marathon’s CEO and president on Aug. 1, the Houston-based company said in a statement today. Cazalot, who has been CEO of the company since it was formed in 2002, is ending a 41-year career in the energy industry with his Dec. 31 retirement.

Tillman will need to adjust to operating at a smaller company with fewer resources than Exxon, Fadel Gheit, a New York-based analyst at Oppenheimer & Co., said in a telephone interview today. His appointment was a surprise because Tillman doesn’t come from a company with Marathon’s narrow focus on exploration and production, Gheit said.

“If he can adapt very quickly, I’m sure he will be a tremendous success,” Gheit said. “Let’s not forget that this guy has an incredible background and is obviously very qualified.”

Tillman joined Exxon in 1989 after studying chemical engineering at Texas A&M University and Auburn University. His international assignments included postings in Scotland, Indonesia and Equatorial Guinea. The Texas native said in a 2012 interview with Dice Holdings Inc.’s Rigzone website that he had a “passion for cars” and that if he hadn’t become an engineer he would have been a Formula 1 race car driver.

Cazalot’s Legacy

Lee Warren, a Marathon spokeswoman, said neither Cazalot nor Tillman were available for interviews today.

Marathon rose 2.9 percent to $34.37 at the close in New York and was the best-performing oil producer in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Energy Index. The stock has increased 12 percent this year.

Cazalot, 62, led Marathon through its split from what became U.S. Steel Corp. in 2002 and the consolidation of the company’s fuel-making business through the acquisition of Ashland Inc.’s stake in a joint venture three years later. In 2011, Cazalot reversed course and shed the refining unit after saying the effort to mimic the so-called integrated model of larger oil producers such as Exxon had failed.

During Cazalot’s tenure, Marathon achieved average annual gains of 29 percent, outperforming Exxon’s 17 percent increases and Chevron Corp.’s 16 percent advances, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Marathon’s lead director, Dennis H. Reilley, will become chairman of the board upon Cazalot’s departure, according to the statement.

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