Thunderbird graduate was first American to lead the London-based oil giant

As most of the world was planning, setting goals, building up steam to charge full-speed ahead into the new year, one prominent Thunderbird alumnus has been winding down from a stellar career in the oil and gas industry.

Bob Dudley, group chief executive of BP since October 2010, plans to step down from the BP board on Feb. 4, 2020, ending a term at the helm of the oil and gas company that swung from near collapse in 2010 to rapid growth today. He leaves BP after nine years at the top and 40 years with the company. 

Dudley, who received a Master of International Management degree from Thunderbird in 1979, is widely credited with stabilizing the London-based oil giant when its existence was threatened. 

Opportune Time to Retire 

According to most reports, Dudley is going out on top.  

BP Chairman Helge Lund said that Dudley was appointed chief executive at “probably the most challenging time in BP's history” and that the energy company and the whole industry owe Dudley a “debt of gratitude.”

“Bob Dudley is in his final days at BP. 1979 Thunderbird graduate was first American to lead the London-based oil giant.” – Click to tweet

According to Energy Intel, Dudley, who was named head of BP less than six months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, took decisive action to restore BP’s reputation and streamline the business, restoring its dividends. Financial Times reports that BP’s shares have risen 23 percent during Dudley’s leadership.

Energy Intel, which named Dudley 2018 Energy Intelligence Petroleum Executive of the Year, said he “immediately took steps to ensure the company could meet its commitments to compensate those affected, while also acting to improve safety management with the establishment of a dedicated Safety and Operational Risk unit.”

Dudley led an overhaul of BP’s strategy, which analysts say enabled the company to respond positively to the fall in oil prices in 2014 and lead it to deliver growth.

The company announced that Dudley will be replaced in February by insider Bernard Looney, 49, an Irishman who is currently head of exploration and production.

Dudley on Passing the Torch 

“Bernard is a terrific choice to lead the company next,” Dudley said of his successor. “He knows BP and our industry as well as anyone but is creative and not bound by traditional ways of working. I have no doubt that he will thoughtfully lead BP through the transition to a low carbon future.”

“Bob Dudley led an overhaul of BP’s strategy, which analysts say enabled the company to respond positively to the fall in oil prices in 2014 and lead it to deliver growth.” – Click to tweet

An American born in New York, Dudley is one of the most notable graduates of Thunderbird, which boasts a strong list of alumni who have gone on to become global leaders and achieve great things.

Dudley is a graduate of the University of Illinois, and also holds a Masters in International Management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. He is also a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and since 2013 he served on the Thunderbird Board of Fellows. 

Dudley’s career began in 1979 with Amoco, where he held a series of engineering and commercial positions before moving into a corporate development role in Russia in the 1990s. Following the merger with BP in 1999, Dudley held various group vice-president positions before becoming chief executive of the TNK-BP joint venture in 2003. On his return to BP in 2009 he was appointed to the BP board with responsibility for the company’s activities in the Americas and Asia.

“It has been the privilege of a lifetime to serve this company and work in this industry for the past four decades,” Dudley said. “I have worked with so many committed people from all over the world – both inside and outside BP – and I am enormously proud of all the things we have achieved together to provide energy for the world.”

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