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BP Chairman Svanberg to Retire; Search Starts for Successor

Oct. 19, 2017
Svanberg, 65, joined BP just months before the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion.

BP Plc said Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg will retire after overseeing the London-based oil giant through some of the most tumultuous years in its history.

Svanberg, 65, joined BP just months before the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion -- a disaster that killed 11 people and triggered the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history. It was a sudden test for the new chairman, quickly spiraling out of control amid a months-long effort to contain the spill, becoming an existential crisis for the company.

Amid criticism of CEO Tony Hayward’s tone-deaf handling of the crisis, Svanberg stepped in to make a $20 billion commitment to spill victims to then-President Barack Obama.

A few months later, he replaced Hayward with Bob Dudley, an experienced executive who managed to steer BP out of catastrophe, albeit at a final cost of more than $60 billion in compensation and penalties that left the energy giant much diminished.

While the rest of Svanberg’s tenure was less eventful, he didn’t escape criticism. In the depths of the oil price slump in April 2016, BP suffered a humiliating setback as a majority of shareholders rejected a 20% pay increase for Dudley. Svanberg was forced to cap the CEO’s pay for three years to avert another investor rebellion.

Svanberg will chair BP’s annual general meeting next May and will remain in his post until a successor is found, the company said on Oct. 19. Senior Independent Director Ian Davis will now lead the search for a successor.

The Sunday Times reported last month that BP was near to starting a search for a replacement for Svanberg, who has been chairman since January 2010. It named possible contenders as former HSBC Holdings Plc Chairman Douglas Flint and Helge Lund, a former CEO of BG Group.

By Amanda Jordan

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