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Home » BP Investors Want Oil Behemoth To Target BAE Chief As CEO

BP Investors Want Oil Behemoth To Target BAE Chief As CEO

Some of BP’s largest shareholders have urged it to approach Charles Woodburn, the BAE Systems chief executive, about becoming the FTSE-100 oil behemoth’s next boss.

Sky News has learnt that several large investors believe that BP should target the appointment of an external candidate as its CEO for the first time in its 114-year history.

One said that Dr Woodburn was “an obvious candidate” for the job, given BAE’s success during his six-and-a-half year tenure and his lengthy earlier career at the oilfield services companies Schlumberger and Expro Group.

It was unclear this weekend whether Dr Woodburn had been formally approached by BP or headhunters acting for the company, although several sources said they understood that he had been sounded out in recent weeks.

Dr Woodburn’s receptiveness to an approach from the oil company was also unclear.

A BAE spokesperson said on Saturday: “Charles is chief executive of BAE Systems and we have no comment on BP personnel matters.”

BP has been engaged in a search for a new CEO since Bernard Looney was forced out of the company in September after misleading its board about personal relationships with colleagues.

Last month, the company said it had scrapped more than £32m in potential payments to Mr Looney, including more than £1m that he was instructed to repay to BP.

The interim CEO, Murray Auchincloss, who served as chief financial officer under Mr Looney, is regarded as a leading contender to land the job on a permanent basis.

Reuters reported in December that Carol Howle, BP’s head of trading and shipping, and Emma Delaney, head of customers and products, were the other internal candidates for the job.

If either took the role, they would be the first woman to run one of Britain’s oil majors.

Egon Zehnder International, the search firm, is advising BP’s board on the recruitment process.

BP’s next chief executive will be confronted with the decision about whether to pursue the strategy set out by Mr Looney, which involves transitioning BP towards steep cuts in carbon emissions and growing its renewables and cleaner fuels businesses.

With a market capitalisation of £81.1bn, BP is more than double the size of BAE Systems, which has a market value of close to £35bn.

The BP process is not the first time that Dr Woodburn has been linked with a move away from BAE, which he joined as chief operating officer in 2016.

In 2021, BAE handed him a seven-figure ‘golden handcuffs’ share award to keep him at the company after he was offered the chance to become chief executive of Rio Tinto, the London-listed miner.

That award vested last year.

Since the Rio approach, BAE’s shares have more than doubled, aided by the company’s soaring sales in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

BP confirmed that the recruitment process for its next CEO was ongoing, but declined to comment on potential candidates.

Helge Lund, the BP chairman, has signalled that both internal and external candidates are being considered.