Exxon Names Refining Boss Heir Apparent to CEO Rex Tillerson

(Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp. promoted Darren Woods to president, putting him on a path to succeed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson as leader of the world’s largest energy producer by market value.

The elevation of Woods, who oversees Exxon’s sprawling global network of oil refineries and fuel terminals, signals an apparent end to the internal competition with production chief Jack Williams to replace Tillerson upon retirement some time between now and March 2017. The promotions were announced in a statement Friday by the Irving, Texas-based company.

Woods, an electrical engineer by training who joined Exxon in 1992 as an analyst, is following the same trajectory as Tillerson in being named president and promoted to director. At 50, he is the youngest member of the 13-person board. Many observers had expected Exxon to favor Williams because he emerged from and runs the oil- and gas-producing business that generates almost 80 percent of the company’s profit.

“The days of strictly just looking at your biggest business unit and plucking the next CEO from that pool of executives is over,” said Brian Youngberg, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis. “At Exxon, they look at who they think their best leader is, no matter what they operate.”

Woods, a native of Wichita, Kansas, worked his way up through the refining and chemicals businesses until his appointment to the management committee that oversees day-to-day operations in 2014 alongside Williams. His promotion to president was made by the board on Dec. 9 but not announced until Friday.

Tillerson will reach Exxon’s mandatory retirement age of 65 in March 2017. For now, he remains CEO and chairman of the board, according to the statement. Tillerson has been CEO since January 2006.

Woods was not available for an interview, according to Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for Exxon.


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