By Ron Bousso
LONDON (Reuters) -BP interim boss Murray Auchincloss was named permanent CEO on Wednesday, pledging to stick with energy transition plans as the board seeks to steady the company which was rocked by the sudden resignation of Bernard Looney last September.
Auchincloss, 53, has led BP for the last four months and is well known to investors, having previously led BP’s finances and helping Looney shape the company’s current strategy calling for growing renewables and reducing oil and gas output by 2030.
“Our strategy – from international oil company to integrated energy company, or IOC to IEC – does not change. I’m convinced about the significant value we can create,” Auchincloss said in a statement.
“Now, more than ever, our focus must remain on delivery – operating safely and efficiently, executing with discipline, and always focusing on returns.”
BP shares were down 1.6% at 1117 GMT while Shell was down 2.8%.
BP’s stock has underperformed rivals since Looney’s departure, raising speculation that BP could be an acquisition target amid a recent wave of consolidation.
While CFO under Looney, Auchincloss was key in formulating changes to its strategy last February, including slowing down BP’s retreat from oil and gas and reducing spending on renewables in an effort to improve returns.
“Murray is well known and respected within the market and most importantly was one of the key architects of BP’s current strategy,” Bernstein analyst Oswald Clint said.
Kate Thomson continues as interim CFO as the process to appoint a person to the permanent role continues, a spokesperson said.
Auchincloss became interim CEO after Looney resigned on Sept. 12 for failing to disclose relationships with employees, throwing the energy giant into turmoil.
Auchincloss’s partner is herself a BP employee, a relationship he disclosed prior to becoming CFO in 2020.
The relationship was discussed thoroughly again during the CEO selection process and “appropriate protocols were put in place to ensure fairness of treatment to all concerned”, a spokesperson said.
Murray’s appointment followed a search process which included external candidates, BP said.
He was seen as the most likely candidate for the permanent job after Chairman Helge Lund and BP’s board had short-listed two other internal candidates – BP head of trading and shipping Carol Howle and Emma Delaney, head of customers and products, sources told Reuters in December.
Auchincloss, a Canadian national, joined Amoco in 1992 before the company was acquired by BP in 1998. He held roles in finance and mergers and acquisitions and was chief of staff to the CEO between 2010 and 2013. Before becoming group CFO in 2020, he led finance for BP’s upstream division under Bernard Looney.
He will receive an annual salary of 1.45 million pounds ($1.83 million) plus bonus.
Looney’s departure sparked an investigation into his past relationships involving an external law firm and left no clear succession plan in place.
BP announced in December that it would claw back $40 million from Looney’s remuneration package after concluding that he had lied over his relationships with employees.
(Reporting by Ron Bousso; editing by Jason Neely)