Sunday 29 September 2019 4:46 pm

New Horizons: BP boss tasked with clearing up oil spill looks for exit after a decade at the top

The head of BP, who stepped into the top job as the company faced the biggest crisis in its history, is preparing to step down as he nears his 65th birthday.

Bob Dudley’s time at the company will be marked by the scramble to deal with the fallout from the Deepwater Horizon spill and fire which killed 11 people and created one of history’s biggest environmental disasters.

Read more: BP powers ahead of analysts as oil major boosts profit by increasing output

The chief executive’s departure would push a Brit and an Irishman to the top of the running to replace the first American to run the oil major.

Brian Gilvary, the company’s finance chief, is among the favourites. The 57-year-old Manchester-educated Brit has held the role since 2012, having been with BP since 1986.

Meanwhile, fingers will also point to Bernard Looney, 48, who has been the company’s chief executive for upstream since November 2010, just after the Deepwater Horizon spill. In the role he runs around one fifth of the company’s employees.

It would be the culmination of a rags to riches story for the engineer who last year told the Irish Independent his family survived on “subsistence farming” when he was growing up.

The announcement of Dudley’s departure, which Sky reported this weekend will likely come before year-end, is not unexpected. Speculation has raged for years that he would leave after signing a settlement in 2015 over Deepwater Horizon.

The company is still paying off the $60bn settlement.

But instead of resigning in 2015, the chief has taken the company on an expansion, increasing its proven reserves from 4.5bn to 5.2bn barrels since 2016. Last year its profit attributable to shareholders nearly tripled to $9.4bn.

Read more: BP sells Alaskan fields and pipeline to Hilcorp for $5.6bn

Chair Helge Lund, who joined earlier this year, is also looking for a replacement outside the business, Sky said.

However, he might have time to think about it. In 2017 Reuters reported that it is a Dudley family tradition not to retire before 65 – a milestone the chief will not reach until September next year.