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Bernard Looney has resigned as chief executive of BP after admitting he had failed to disclose the extent of past personal relationships with colleagues, the company has said.
Looney, 53, is to be replaced by Murray Auchincloss, the oil major’s chief financial officer, “on an interim basis”, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
Looney had told the company earlier on Tuesday that “he was not fully transparent in his previous disclosures”, BP said. “He did not provide details of all relationships and accepts he was obligated to make more complete disclosure.”
BP’s announcement confirmed an earlier report by the Financial Times. Looney did not respond to requests for comment.
The departure is set to rock the 113-year-old energy group, which is one of most recognised names in British business. Looney joined BP in 1991 aged 21 and has spent his entire career at the company. The Irish citizen was appointed chief executive in 2020 to transform the oil producer into an integrated energy company and navigate the energy transition.
Shares in BP fell 1.3 per cent in early trading on Wednesday as investors digested Looney’s exit.
BP said its board in May 2022 received and investigated “allegations” relating to Looney’s “conduct in respect of personal relationships with company colleagues”. During that review, the executive disclosed past relationships prior to becoming CEO and the investigation did not find any breach of conduct.
However, “further allegations of a similar nature were received recently, and the company immediately began investigating with the support of external legal counsel”, it said, adding that the process is “ongoing”.
“All leaders in particular are expected to act as role models and to exercise good judgment in a way that earns the trust of others,” BP said.
The abrupt departure follows other corporate resignations in recent years linked to executives’ personal relationships with employees.
Since his appointment, Looney had overhauled BP’s strategy, spearheading an attempt by parts of the oil industry to transition to providing cleaner forms of energy.
Looney’s commitments to cut the company’s emissions to net zero by 2050 have gone further than BP’s rivals. At the same time, he had pledged to increase investments in low-carbon projects tenfold and to build or acquire 50GW of renewable power by 2030.
Looney grew up on a dairy farm in the west of Ireland. As a leader he had sought to present a more approachable persona than some previous executives.
“Those days where the boss was the hero and the boss knew everything and just seemed impervious to anything . . . I think those days are over,” Looney told the Financial Times in an interview in February 2022.
After building its energy strategy around Looney, his departure will leave the board scrambling to find a permanent replacement at a time when investors remain sceptical about some aspects of the company’s plans.
BP said it was yet to take a decision in respect of “any remuneration payments” to be made to the outgoing chief executive.