Credit: International Students' Committee

Leadership profile: Bob Dudley

Who is the BP CEO and what's he done at the oil giant?

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 17 Jan 2017

Bob Dudley became the chief executive of BP in 2010 in the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. An oil industry lifer, he is known for being steady, diplomatic and cool under pressure. Just as well really...

Defining moment: 

In 2010, Dudley was sent to manage the disaster recovery efforts after BP’s Deepwater Horizon catastrophe killed 11 people and spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. A few months later he replaced Tony ‘I’d like my life back’ Hayward as group CEO.

Dudley was qualified, no doubt, but then so was Hayward. The difference between them was that Dudley was untainted by the spill and crucially not British. New York born and Mississippi raised, he was better able to handle the ire of the American public and politicians, who were out for blood.

They settled for cash instead. Just under $21bn, to be precise, a figure that was only settled at the end of last year. Dudley’s tenure as CEO has been dominated by the scandal, as has his tone. Aside from handling the negotiations and law suits, Dudley also oversaw the severe reduction in the company’s assets to pay for it all, something he described in positive terms – creating a ‘well-balanced portfolio’ and a ‘safer, more reliable, more resilient BP’.

Best known for:

Right now, his pay. Dudley fell victim to a shareholder rebellion over his £16.1m remuneration package for 2016. Well, he would have fallen victim had he chosen to heed the results of the vote – despite 60% of investors rejecting it, the poll was non-binding. Dudley was having none of it. ‘When you look at it carefully, my pay and bonus is less this year than last year,’ he said to the Mail Online. So there.

You may not know:

In his youth, Dudley was a star swimmer, a frat boy and a polite practical joker. He later joined the likes of Bolshevik pioneer Leon Trotsky and KGB double agent Oleg Gordievsky on the list of people who’ve fled Russia in a hurry, following claims he had received ‘sustained harassment’ from the Russian authorities.

He had been CEO of a TKN-BP, a joint venture with Russian oligarchs, who decided BP was thinking a little bit too much about BP. When Dudley’s visa ran out in 2008, he left the country quickly, attempting to run the joint venture from an undisclosed location for a few months before resigning. He currently sits on the board of Rosneft – no hard feelings, eh.

Why Bob Dudley's salary is completely fair

In his own words:

‘New sources of oil and gas have been found, old sources have been regenerated and production has continued to grow.  The theory of "peak oil" has itself peaked.’ – Gujurat, 2013

‘Smart technology matters.  Policy matters. Partnership matters. But people matter the most.’ – Gujarat 2013

'BP's work since the accident - in the Gulf, on safety and on the full range of our business operations - has changed our company profoundly.'  –CERAWeek conference, 2015


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