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    5. How Lord Brown's “turtles” took control of BP


    How Lord Brown's “turtles” took control of BP

    Lord Brown presided over a golden age of expansion and diversification during his time as CEO. Photo: AFP

    Bernard Looney was part of an elite cadre of “Turtle” executives, personally mentored by Lord Browne, one of BP's most influential executives.

    Turtles are the nickname given within the company to employees who served one of Lord Browne's executive assistants during his reign. time as CEO from 1995 to 2007.

    This was a reference to the cartoon superheroes from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series and was intended to highlight the courageous potential of those chosen by Lord Brown. A former BP executive wrote in his memoirs that they earned the nickname because of “their speed and ability to show up whenever they were needed.”

    Lord Brown, dubbed the “Sun King” in the press, presided over a golden age of expansion and diversification at BP, best known for rebranding “Beyond Petroleum” as the oil giant led an early push for renewable energy.


    Serving at Lord Browne's right hand was seen as a quick path to success. Starting as a drilling engineer in 1991, Looney, now 53, was one of Lord Browne's last executive assistants, a position he held during his mentor's final year as chief executive.

    Lord Browne resigned. died prematurely after lying to a court during a legal battle over press reports about his personal life. The peer quit a year earlier than planned after the Mail on Sunday newspaper outed him as gay in an interview with his former Brazilian lover Geoff Chevalier.

    Looney has now resigned over issues related to his personal life. Looney was forced to resign on Tuesday after it was revealed that he had lied about his relationships with colleagues.

    Looney was forced to resign on Tuesday after revelations he lied about his relationships with colleagues Photo: ARUN SANKAR/AFP

    This ended the dominance of the Turtles at the head of BP. Every chief executive since Lord Browne has been one of the peer's former aides, highlighting his significant legacy after leaving.

    Lord Browne continued to keep in touch with Looney, and the pair are known to have chatted over dinner after How an Irishman became CEO in 2020. They took turns paying the bills.

    Besides Looney, the other turtles included Tony. Hayward, who led BP immediately after Brown from 2007 to 2010, and Bob Dudley, who led the company from 2010 to 2020.

    Hayward reversed much of his mentor's rebranding by shutting down BP's renewable energy division, but later was removed from office due to his mistakes in responding to the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

    The explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed 11 workers and caused the largest oil spill in US history. Hayward told reporters: “I want my life back,” sparking a public outcry and an apology for the “thoughtless” comment.

    Tony Hayward, another of Brown's protégés, was ousted from his post at BP following the massive 2010 Gulf oil spill. Photo: AP

    Looney was among those sent to work on the spill and later called it the most traumatic period of his time at BP.

    He calls himself a workaholic who spends hours working out in the gym every day. This week Looney took over from Dudley in 2020 and outlined his own plans to make BP greener, echoing Lord Browne's failed attempt two decades earlier.

    He outlined plans to cut the company's oil production by 40% and committed to achieving “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, a significant gap with the rest of the industry.

    However, Looney later came under criticism. for softening BP's green plans. He was also criticized for calling BP a “cash machine” after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, which sent oil and gas prices soaring.

    Then-chancellor Rishi Sunak was blamed for his remarks. decision to impose a windfall tax on UK oil and gas income.

    Looney described BP as the company that “gave me everything I have in life” and reportedly has no hobbies besides work.

    External candidates to replace Looney include Tufan Erginbilgic, the Turkish chief executive of aerospace giant Rolls-Royce. Photo: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg

    Murray Auchincloss, BP's chief financial officer and a close Looney ally, was named interim CEO. On Wednesday, he assured employees that the company's strategy had not changed.

    The Canadian is seen as a possible candidate to succeed Looney along with executive vice presidents William Lin, who heads regions, corporates and solutions, Anei-Isabelle Dotzenrath, head of gas and low-carbon energy, and Gordon Birrell, head of production and >Of these, only Auchincloss, who has been with BP since 2000, was at BP during Lord Browne's time and is believed to have not been a turtle.

    BP insiders said on Wednesday that Looney's departure marked the end of the era of the turtles

    External candidates to replace Looney include Tufan Erginbildzic, the Turkish chief of aerospace giant Rolls-Royce, and Charles Woodburn, the British chief of defense contractor BAE Systems.

    BP's board may also consider poaching an executive from a rival US oil company such as Chevron or Exxon Mobil.

    While turtles dominate After all, ambitious employees can still apply for similar “business consultant” jobs at BP. Positions serving top management are still the most desirable as they can lead to greater achievements.

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