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BP CEO to retire after 9 years, be replaced by Bernard Looney

BP Whiting Business Unit Leader Nick Spencer, left, talks to BP CEO Bob Dudley when he toured the Whiting Refinery in 2012. Dudley, 64, now plans to retire.

BP CEO Bob Dudley, 64, plans to retire in March after 40 years with the company, including the last nine as group chief executive.

BP, the London-based energy giant that operates the BP Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Hammond and East Chicago on the Lake Michigan lakeshore, named Upstream Chief Executive Bernard Looney, 49, as Dudley's replacement as group chief executive.

“Bob has dedicated his whole career to the service of this industry," BP Chairman Helge Lund said. "He was appointed chief executive at probably the most challenging time in BP’s history. 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. This company — and indeed the whole industry — owes him a debt of gratitude."

Dudley will step down on March 31, 2020 after delivering the company's full-year financial results for 2019.

“It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve this company and work in this industry for the past four decades," Dudley said. "I have worked with so many committed people from all over the world — both inside and outside BP — and I am enormously proud of all the things we have achieved together to provide energy for the world. Bernard is a terrific choice to lead the company next. He knows BP and our industry as well as anyone but is creative and not bound by traditional ways of working. I have no doubt that he will thoughtfully lead BP through the transition to a low carbon future.“

BP's board said it did a "comprehensive and deliberate search process" that considered both internal and external candidates.

The change at the helm comes at a critical junction when BP is looking to transition to a more diversified range of energy sources, including renewables.

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“As the company charts its course through the energy transition this is a logical time for a change," Lund said. "Bernard has all the right qualities to lead us through this transformational era. He has deep experience in the energy sector, has risen through the ranks of BP, and has consistently delivered strong safety, operational and financial performance. He is an authentic, progressive leader, with a passion for purpose and people and a clear sense of what BP must do to thrive through the energy transition.

Looney has run BP's Upstream business since April 2016, overseeing oil and gas exploration, development and production worldwide. He managed 17,000 workers in 30 countries, who produced about 2.6 million barrels a day.

BP credits him with increased production by 20%, process by 35% and safety performance by 20%. He had overseen 23 major project start-ups, led the company into new countries like Mauritania and Senegal, and drove emissions reductions of 3 million tons of CO2 carbon equivalent in the past two years.

An Irish citizen who grew up in County Kerry and earned a master's degree from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Looney also led the creation of the company's central drilling and projects functions after the Deepwater Horizon spill.

As group chief executive, Looney will be paid a salary of about $1.67 million a year, as well as bonuses and performance shares.

“It has been a great pleasure to work with Bob and it is an honor to succeed him as chief executive," Looney said. "I am humbled by the responsibility that is being entrusted to me by the board and am truly excited about both the role and BP’s future. Our company has amazing people, tremendous assets, and a set of core values that guide our actions, but most of all we have a desire to be better. I look forward to tapping into that desire and building on the strong foundation that Bob has built as we meet society’s demand for cleaner, better energy.”

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.