British oil and gas giant BP has named interim boss Murray Auchincloss as its new permanent CEO after Bernard Looney, the company’s previous chief executive, abruptly resigned last year.
Auchincloss, who has been serving as interim CEO since Looney’s resignation on 23 September, will officially become CEO with immediate effect, the company announced on Wednesday.
BP’s board voted on his appointment after a “robust and competitive search process”, the company said in a press statement, adding that Auchincloss will continue as a member of the board as CEO.
Auchincloss said: “It’s an honour to lead bp – this is a great company with great people. Our strategy – from international oil company to integrated energy company – does not change. I am convinced about the significant value we can create.
“Now, more than ever, our focus must remain on delivery – operating safely and efficiently, executing with discipline and always focusing on returns. This is how we will deliver real benefits for our customers and other stakeholders and continue to grow long-term value for bp’s shareholders.”
Auchincloss faces challenges as he looks to steer the company away from the reputational fallout that came with Looney’s shock departure, which was triggered by revelations about undisclosed relationships the then-CEO had hidden from the company.
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“Continuity of the existing strategy is no bad thing,” Derren Nathan, head of equity research at Hargreaves Lansdown, told reporters. “Auchincloss certainly has a job to do to restore investor confidence and close the valuation gap with arch-rival Shell, and an even wider gulf with its US peers.”
After Looney’s resignation, bp said an investigation involving an external legal council was ongoing. During his time as CEO, Looney saw the company face accusations of extensive greenwashing, mainly by emphasising its commitment to renewables in a way that dishonestly hid its ongoing upscaling of its oil and gas business.
A report, published in August last year, sampled data from 12 energy majors including bp and found that only 7.3% ($7.09bn) of the 12 companies’ 2022 investments went towards renewable energy. The remaining 92.7% ($87.95bn) funded fossil fuel projects.
Before being catapulted into the position of interim chief executive, 53-year-old, Canadian-born Auchincloss was CFO at the company. According to people who have worked with him, he is “well-liked and well-respected,” but is far less gregarious than his predecessor, having previously told senior colleagues that he will be limiting interviews with journalists and avoiding social media.
Helge Lund, chair of bp, said of Auchincloss: “Many already know Murray well, and few know bp better than he does. His assured leadership, focus on performance and delivery, and deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges in the energy transition will serve bp well as we continue our disciplined transformation to an integrated energy company.”