BP's Dudley Seen Reigning For Years To Restore Major's Might

BP's Dudley Seen Reigning For Years To Restore Major's Might
When Dudley clinched a final deal to settle litigation over the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster, many oil industry executives and investors thought his mission was accomplished.


LONDON, June 15 (Reuters) - When BP boss Bob Dudley clinched a final deal to settle litigation over the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster, many oil industry executives and investors thought his mission was accomplished.

But now, two years later, the 61-year-old is showing no sign of easing into retirement. In fact he plans to oversee an ambitious expansion plan and stay at the helm of the British oil major until at least the end of the decade, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The American CEO has told his leadership team that it is in his family's tradition to not retire until 65 - which would take him to 2020 - and that he could perhaps work even longer than that, the sources said.

In another signal that there is unlikely to be a change at the top anytime soon, there has been no imminent succession planning at the firm, according to the sources, one of who said succession was "not a live project".

When Dudley finally decides to go, there will no shortage of candidates to take his place, however.

BP's chief financial officer, British national Brian Gilvary, 55 and the head of upstream, Irishman Bernard Looney, 46, have been cited as possible successors.

There has been persistent industry speculation about when Dudley will call time on his BP career since he struck the 2015 settlement deal under which the company agreed to pay out a total of about $60 billion over the disaster that left 11 dead and led to the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

He had been made CEO in 2010 - the first American to lead BP in its 108-year-old history - to steer the company through the swathe of U.S. litigation, and the deal represented a milestone.

But rather than stepping back from the fray, he has since embarked on the biggest expansion plan in a generation for BP, even in the face of a collapse in oil prices.

'Safe Hands'

The company has become the fastest-growing oil major in the world. It will launch seven oil and gas fields this year - more than any other year in its history - and will launch nine more before the end of the decade, adding 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil and gas to its production.

By 2020 the company, including its stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft, will be producing as much as 4 million bpd - the same as before the Deepwater Horizon spill and up from the 3 million bpd it was producing after offloading assets to cover the litigation costs.

"We are firing on all cylinders," Dudley told a shareholders meeting in May as he aims to catch up with production volumes of its biggest rivals Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell .

Whether this strategy will prove effective in the long-term is by no means certain; BP's large liabilities linked to Deepwater Horizon mean it requires a significantly higher oil price - than the present price and compared with rivals - to pay for its operations and dividends. A sluggish recovery in oil prices could also lead to its already high debt rising further.

Rating agency Moody's upgraded BP's credit rating last week for the first time in 19 years while, in another sign of confidence, 97 percent of BP shareholders voted to approve Dudley's new pay package last month.


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