The ‘workaholic’ BP boss who took home £4.5MILLION last year as firm’s profits hit £6.9BN: How ‘woke’ Bernard Looney, 51, grew up on dairy farm, divorced his life coach wife after two years – and once described energy giant as a ‘cash machine’

  • BP’s Bernard Looney made £4.5m in 2021 and could get £11.7m by 2022 end
  • The chief executive’s family had cows on their farm in Kerry before he went to uni
  • Shortly after graduating he joined BP at 20 and has been a ‘company man’ since
  • Often described as workaholic who has few hobbies, he boasts about green plan
  • As well as diversity while his firm reported ‘eyewatering’ profits of £6.9bn

The boss of BP – which today reported profits had hit a 14-year high of £6.9billion is said to be a ‘woke’ workaholic who last year took home £4.5million in pay.

Bernard Looney, who rose through the ranks after joining as a drill engineer in 1991 to become CEO in 2020, could now be in line for an £11.7m pay packet – just as households across the country struggle amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Irishman Looney, 51, who once called BP a ‘cash machine’ is often referred to as a ‘company man’, and boasts about his ‘green credentials’, commitment to diversity and humble beginnings on a dairy farm in Kerry.

Looney also lists his pronouns as he/him on his social media profile – and is often pictured wearing jeans in online posts.

He divorced his wife of two years shortly before he became chief executive. 

Life coach Jacqueline Hurst has reportedly spoken about their marriage, claiming he used her to get a ‘promotion’ – and even dumped her via WhatsApp. 

Mr Looney, who is now based at BP’s London headquarters, grew up on a farm in Ashgrove near Kenmare as one of five children. 

Bernard Looney, whose company posted record profits of £6.9bn, a 14-year high, has been at BP since 1991 where he started off a drill engineer in the North Sea

Mr Looney’s life coach wife Jacqueline Hurst (pictured) has also reportedly spoke about her marriage to a ‘company man’ who was using her to get a ‘promotion’ and dumped her via WhatsApp

Mr Looney took his first job on graduating with BP at the age of 20 as a BP drilling engineer in the North Sea near Aberdeen

He has explained how tough it was before he became the first of his family to go to University, the Irish Independent reported. 

He said: ‘Only about eight acres out of the 90 we had were actually arable. We had 14 cows and it was pretty much subsistence farming’.

He would also help out on the farm as ‘the gopher, bringing them whichever tool they needed’ while his mother encouraged him to get on in life. He added: ‘She said if I could read, I could do anything.’   

While his parents, Mary and Tom Looney, left school when they were 11, he graduated from University College Dublin, which has produced many of Ireland’s Prime Ministers. 

He took his first job at the age of 20 as a BP drilling engineer in the North Sea near Aberdeen. He then was part of the Deep Horizon team in Mexico, which is forever associated with the largest oil spill in 2010 which dumped 210m gallons into the sea.

Mr Looney also worked in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and Vietnam before getting more senior roles and becoming chief executive of BP in February 2020. 

He announced a net zero ambition by 2050 and a ‘new purpose of reimagining energy for people and our planet’.

Mr Looney (pictured) has been described as inspiration for his commitment to inclusivity 

Mr Looney said: ‘Two of the most distinctive aspects of the strategy are our plans to reduce bp’s oil and gas production by 40% by 2030 and a 10-fold increase in annual spending on low carbon activities.’ 

But this has also brought his detractors who refer to him as the ‘woke’ evangelist of green initiatives. 

An industry source suggested to The Sunday Times he was ‘playing to the woke group’ and said there was ‘a degree of disenfranchisement, as you’d expect’ among BP’s ‘older generation’. 

Mr Looney has also come under fire within BP for his commitment to a 40 per cent cut in oil and gas production to meet environmental commitments. 

‘That’s a hell of a hydrocarbon reduction at a time when the world obviously needs it. No one else has got anything like that projection,’ a former senior insider told The Sunday Times. 

‘He was just a little too ambitious,’ he added. ‘It’s the right direction of travel … [but] it’s the judgment about the pace. My view — and one that’s widely shared — is they have been too aggressive.’ 

Another former employee also raised eyebrows at his pledges. ‘The question is, will it come off? And will he get the rate of return that he predicted?’ He added: ‘I wish he’d given himself a bit more wiggle room.’

Mr Looney was also part of the Deep Horizon team in Mexico (pictured while part of the team 20 years ago), which is forever associated with the largest oil spill in 2010 which dumped 210m gallons into the sea, hurting wildlife

But Mr Looney also wants a 10-fold increase in annual spending on low carbon activities. 

‘Oil is increasingly becoming socially challenged.’ Mr Looney said ‘I would talk about the people we’ve hired into BP in the past six months that we would have struggled to hire had we not laid out the [net zero] ambition.’ 

He has also been outspoken on mental health which he feels is his ‘great responsibility’ and on diversity including LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace. 

Mr Looney also regularly posts on Instagram where he said on taking over the top job at BP: ‘I look forward to sharing what I am up to, who I am meeting and offering a window into the decisions, challenges and opportunities that are ahead.’

He said he wanted people to open up about their oil and gas industry concerns. ‘I encourage you all to be candid – I consider honest and open discussion crucial,’ he wrote.

Mr Looney is still known for his jeans and jumpers years on from his beginnings at BP

His estranged wife Ms Hurst wrote in her self-published book How To Do You: the Life Changing Art of Mastering Your Thoughts and Taking Control of Your Life about a marriage which The Sunday Times understands refers to Mr Looney. She claims that her husband only married her to get ahead at BP. 

Ms Hurst, who has been married twice, wrote: ‘When my husband ended our marriage suddenly and without warning via a WhatsApp message, I was naturally devastated. 

‘I learned later that he had only married me because he wanted to get to the next level of seniority in the company he worked for and he had to be seen to be married, in order to be given the promotion. 

‘Unbelievable, I know, but that was the case. Getting my mind – and thoughts -around what had happened took time.’

Her and Mr Looney married in October 2017 and divorced in 2019, three months before he became chief executive. 

A friend of Mr Looney’s told the Times: ‘He was briefly married during a period in which he wasn’t promoted. So if he married her to get promoted, that didn’t seem to have worked. Maybe he divorced her to get promoted.’

BP has seen its profits grow off the back of a global surge in price, in part ramped up by the war in Ukraine and inflation pressures post-Covid. 

The energy giant also warned that energy prices will continue to soar as the invasion of Ukraine will continue to disrupt Russian supply and cause crude oil and gas prices to stay high over the third quarter.

And now in light of the ‘eye watering profits’ at the oil company which are seen as an ‘insult’ to hardworking families, Mr Looney is expected this year to take home £11.7m this year after his pay ballooned to nearly £4.5m in 2021

Mr Looney said in 2021: ‘When the market is strong, when oil prices are strong and when gas prices are strong, this is literally a cash machine.’ 

He took a different tack today when BP delivered cheer to investors, with a 10% rise in the dividend shareholder payout and by ramping up its share buyback plan with another 3.5 billion US dollars (£2.9 billion) due before the end of September.

Looney insisted on Tuesday the group was continuing to ‘perform while transforming’.

He said: ‘Our people have continued to work hard throughout the quarter helping to solve the energy trilemma – secure, affordable and lower carbon energy.

‘We do this by providing the oil and gas the world needs today – while at the same time, investing to accelerate the energy transition.’

Mr Looney has a popular Instagram account where he regularly posts casual pictures in jeans and jumpers 

The Government is introducing a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies, but it has faced criticism for giving strong incentives to allow companies to invest in oil and gas, while there are no tax incentives in the policy for green investment. 

He also dismissed the idea that any tax would change his plans. 

Mr Looney said earlier this year: ‘We’re backing Britain. It’s been our home for over 110 years, and we’ve been investing in North Sea oil and gas for more than 50 years.’

He added: ‘Our plans go beyond just infrastructure – they see us supporting the economy and skills and jobs in the communities where we operate. We are all in.’

Asked by The Times what investments might be cancelled if there was a windfall tax, Mr Looney said: ‘There are none that we wouldn’t do.’

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