BP blasted over ‘toxic’ Bernard Looney as search begins for new boss
BP has been accused of turning a blind eye to Bernard Looney’s ‘toxic’ behaviour as it begins a search for his successor.
He abruptly quit as the oil giant’s chief executive this week after admitting he misled the board over a probe launched last year into his personal relationships with colleagues.
The company is under fire for appointing him chief executive in 2020 despite his reputation for relationships apparently being widespread.
Barbara Schonhofer, a leading advocate for women in business, said: ‘Why was he hired in such a high-profile prominent leadership role in the first place?’
Schonhofer, who leads ISC Group – an advocacy organisation for women in the insurance industry – questioned how much due diligence was done before Looney’s appointment was announced in 2019, leaving the board to deal with the fall-out when the details of his private life emerged.
Ousted: Bernard Looney (pictured) quit as BP’s chief exec this week after admitting he misled the board over a probe launched last year into his personal relationships with colleagues
‘How far do toxic leaders have to go before the decision is made that they must go?’ she said. ‘This sort of behaviour would not be accepted or tolerated in a woman.’
The comments came as BP chairman Helge Lund ruled himself out as Looney’s successor.
BP’s board was told about Looney’s frolicking with colleagues by an anonymous whistleblower last year.
After he admitted to a ‘small number’ of relationships and made assurances about his future behaviour, it was decided that he had not breached the company’s code of conduct.
But further allegations surfaced last week, forcing him to admit he had not been ‘fully transparent’, and quitting his job immediately.
A fresh investigation has been launched by BP into Looney’s behaviour. Sir Vince Cable, the former Business Secretary, has called for him to be stripped of the £8million in bonuses he received last year.
BP has appointed Murray Auchincloss, its chief financial officer, as interim boss. Auchincloss has a partner who also works at BP. The company said the relationship had been ‘fully and appropriately disclosed’ including during his recruitment process. Auchincloss, a Canadian, has worked for BP since its takeover in 1998 of oil giant Amoco.
He is seen as one of the leading candidates for the top job, but faces competition from others within BP.
One source this week told Reuters that he was ‘already the power behind the throne’.
A BP spokesman said there had been a ‘rigorous and thorough appointment process’ when Looney was handed the top job.