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BP’s Bob Dudley, who navigated oil giant through Deepwater Horizon aftermath, is leaving

Epic oil spill in Gulf of Mexico cost British-based energy firm tens of billions

BP CEO Bob Dudley will step down in early February 2020, the company announced Friday. (Alastair Grant/AP)

Bob Dudley, the oil executive who charted BP through the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil leak, is leaving the petroleum giant next year after 40 years.

Dudley, 64, will retire as group chief executive and relinquish his membership on the company’s board on March 31, 2020. He will be succeeded by Bernard Looney, 49, the chief executive of the firm’s upstream division.

“Bob Dudley took over a BP that was in deep crisis and built it back into a resurgent global player, restoring confidence outside the company, including with investors, and most crucially among BP’s own employees,” said Daniel Yergin, the vice chairman of IHS Markit and the author of two major works on the oil industry, “The Prize” and “The Quest.”

Dudley took over BP, formerly known as British Petroleum, in the wake of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and ignited the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

The accident in water 5,000 feet deep nearly took the British-based company down, costing it tens of billions of dollars in cleanup costs, penalties and payments to individuals and businesses. It was also a public relations disaster, resulting in an embarrassing hearing before the U.S. Congress.

Mississippi-born Dudley took charge of the company’s Gulf Restoration Project before replacing then-chief executive Tony Hayward on Oct. 1, 2010, less than six months after the disaster.

Dudley was well-prepared for the corporate tumult after serving five years as president and chief executive of TNK-BP, which was BP’s lucrative oil partnership in Russia. Dudley fled Russia in 2008 after being harassed by Russian authorities. He reportedly escaped before he was to be arrested.

BP recovered under Dudley’s nine years as chief executive. The company produces more than 1.2 million barrels of oil per day from its far-flung operations and is projected to earn more than $10 billion in profit this year on $300 billion in revenue.

The London-based oil giant is one of the largest companies in the world, with more than 5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. It employs 73,000.

“Bernard Looney comes very well prepared for the new energy era ahead, with deep understanding of both BP and the industry, and with experience working in very different circumstances around the world,” Yergin said.