BP chief quits amid board transparency issue

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In a startling turn of events, the chief executive officer of global energy giant BP, Bernard Looney, has tendered his resignation with immediate effect. The announcement, made late in the evening, sent shockwaves through the corporate world. Mr. Looney, who had been at the helm since 2020, stepped down amidst an ongoing review of his personal relationships with colleagues, marking the second such review in as many years.

BP disclosed that it had initiated an investigation into alleged relationships between Mr. Looney and colleagues. In a significant development, Mr. Looney admitted that he had not been “fully transparent” initially. A company spokesperson emphasised BP’s commitment to its strong values, asserting that all employees, particularly leaders, were expected to adhere to these values and act as role models who inspire trust.

Nick Butler, a former head of strategy at BP, noted the sense of shock surrounding Mr. Looney’s sudden exit. He underscored the importance of leadership at BP and the significant role that Mr. Looney had played during his tenure. Speculation now revolves around the selection of Mr. Looney’s successor, with shareholders keenly awaiting the appointment.

Bernard Looney’s career had been deeply entwined with BP, which he joined as a drilling engineer in 1991, subsequently becoming a member of the executive team in 2010. He had held positions such as head of oil and gas production before assuming the role of chief executive, succeeding Bob Dudley. Mr. Looney had projected a more approachable image as CEO, using social media platforms like Instagram to connect with employees and address industry concerns openly.

His tenure as CEO coincided with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a sharp decline in global demand for oil and gas. This necessitated the announcement of a significant workforce reduction of 10,000 jobs in response to the pandemic’s impact. In 2022, the eruption of the conflict in Ukraine led to a surge in energy prices and prompted BP to exit Russia under pressure from the UK government.

During his leadership, Mr. Looney had set out an ambitious goal for BP to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. However, his handling of environmental targets had drawn criticism from environmental groups, who accused him of diluting initial commitments.

BP clarified that decisions regarding Mr. Looney’s severance pay had not yet been made. In the previous year, he received more than £10 million in pay and bonuses, reflecting soaring oil prices that propelled the company’s profits to record levels.

In the interim, Chief Financial Officer Murray Auchincloss will assume the role of CEO. While Mr. Auchincloss has played a central role in BP’s journey towards net-zero emissions, it remains uncertain whether he will secure the position permanently.

Mr. Looney’s resignation comes amidst a series of high-profile executive dismissals in the UK that have underscored the significance of executive behaviour outside the workplace. These developments serve as a reminder of the increasing scrutiny on corporate leaders’ personal conduct and its impact on their roles and responsibilities.