BP Sparks Speculation Over CEO Succession as McKay Promoted

  • McKay, 57, is currently chief executive of the upstream unit
  • Bernard Looney, now COO for production, will succeed McKay

BP Plc appointed Lamar McKay as deputy chief executive officer, putting him in line to succeed current CEO Bob Dudley at the helm of Europe’s third-biggest oil company. 

McKay, currently CEO of BP’s upstream unit and a 35-year veteran of the company, will be based in London, the company said in a statement Monday. Bernard Looney, chief operating officer of production, will succeed McKay.

“I’d guess that its very likely that Lamar is now going to be the next CEO of BP,” said Iain Reid, an analyst at Macquarie Capital Ltd. in London. “If he isn’t the likely successor, why would he be appointed deputy CEO and not just be given additional responsibilities in his current role?”

Dudley, who took over as CEO from Tony Hayward in 2010 following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, has steered the company through some of the most difficult times in its history. It resolved most cases related to the spill last year, just as the deepest slump in oil prices in more than a decade forced the company to hunker down by cutting jobs and reducing spending. BP has shrunk by more than a third since the spill. 

Challenging Time

“These changes simplify, focus and better align accountabilities within our experienced and versatile senior team,” Dudley said in the statement. “In particular, Lamar’s new role will allow us to further concentrate our attention on BP’s highest priorities through this challenging time for our whole industry.” 

McKay, a 57-year-old U.S. citizen, has been CEO of BP’s exploration, development and oil and gas production businesses since 2013 after joining the executive team in 2008, according to the statement. He became BP’s vice president for Russia and Kazakhstan in 2003 and was a member of the board of joint venture TNK-BP from 2004 to 2007.  

“Lamar is well known and respected by the market and industry,” Brendan Warn, a London-based analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said by phone. “He’s probably going to take greater day-to-day responsibility of running the company and Bob will take on more of the long-term strategic vision and stakeholder management. This is also streamlining the company during a difficult time.”

BP has had a deputy CEO in the past, with Rodney Chase occupying the role under John Browne in the early 2000s. Chase left the company before Browne retired in 2007, to be succeeded by Hayward.

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world’s biggest oil company by market value, promoted Darren Woods to president in December 2015, putting him on a path to succeed Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson.

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