BP to appoint interim boss Murray Auchincloss as chief executive

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BP has decided to appoint interim boss Murray Auchincloss as its permanent chief executive, with the energy company expected to announce the move as early as Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter.

The selection of Auchincloss, BP’s former chief financial officer, ends months of uncertainty following the abrupt resignation of Bernard Looney in September for failing to disclose past relationships with company colleagues.

BP conducted an internal and external search for Looney’s replacement and has once again decided to promote someone from within the business. In its 113-year history, BP has never hired a chief executive from outside the company.

Auchincloss, a Canadian national, joined BP from Amoco in 1998, when the UK-listed company merged with the US business.

He served as chief financial officer from July 2020 to September 2023, when he was named to take over from Looney on an interim basis.

The appointment is further confirmation that BP will stick with a strategy, launched under Looney, to pivot the oil and gas producer towards green forms of energy.

BP chair Helge Lund has previously said the company remained committed to the strategy despite Looney’s departure, although an external hire may have sought to push BP in a different direction.

The appointment of Auchincloss should also reduce BP’s immediate vulnerability to a potential takeover attempt.

The leadership uncertainty at BP had led to speculation that it could become a target amid a wave of consolidation in the oil and gas industry in the past six months.

Auchincloss inherits a company still processing Looney’s sudden departure and trailing its competitors in terms of share price performance. BP’s shares dropped 2 per cent in 2023, while rival Shell closed the year up 11 per cent.

BP in December said Looney’s failure to disclose past relationships with company colleagues amounted to “serious misconduct” and that he would forfeit up to £32.4mn of his pay packet.

At the time, it stressed that Auchincloss was not involved in that decision against Looney and sought to assure staff that the board’s treatment of the former chief executive was not “unduly harsh”.

Finance chiefs have traditionally not been appointed to chief executive at BP but Auchincloss is generally well liked by BP’s institutional investors.

“If they went with Murray I am not convinced it would be the worst decision,” one top-10 shareholder told the Financial Times earlier this week, adding that Auchincloss had performed well as chief financial officer and could “rise to the occasion”.

Auchincloss is in a relationship with a BP colleague but, unlike Looney, it was properly disclosed at the time he became chief financial officer in 2020, BP has said previously.

The decision to permanently appoint Auchincloss was first reported by Sky News. BP declined to comment.


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