Aidan Heavey, an Irish accountant who spent three decades building Tullow Oil Plc into one of the world’s leading independent oil explorers, is stepping down as chief executive officer.
Heavey, 63, who founded the company in 1986 in Tullow, a town 35 miles south of Dublin, will work as chairman for no more than two years, before retiring, the company said Wednesday. Paul McDade, Tullow’s chief operating officer for the past 12 years, will take over as CEO after the annual general meeting on April 26.
“The first deal I did with Aidan was in 1990 when I was at ARCO and Tullow was just a startup,” Amjad Bseisu, CEO at North Sea explorer and producer EnQuest Plc, said in an e-mail. “His persistent vision and drive has made Tullow what it is today.”
Under Heavey, Tullow’s market capitalization reached almost 14 billion pounds ($17 billion) five years ago amid a commodities boom, before collapsing to 1.5 billion pounds as a slump in oil prices forced the industry to slash costs and shelve projects. Tullow rebounded 89 percent last year, making it the best performer on the 20-member Stoxx Europe 600 Oil and Gas Index.
“When this cycle started, I said I’d stay with the company and see it through the downturn and we’re out of that now,” Heavey said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “For me, the most important thing is to have the right person take over.”
The lack of industry investment over the past three to four years is reflected in the way oil majors are “scrambling” to buy assets now, Heavey said. Earlier this week, France’s Total SA announced it will pay Tullow $900 million for control of a Ugandan oil project.
Tullow has pioneered developments across Africa. Its flagship Jubilee project, off the coast of Ghana, produced 73,700 barrels a day last year, and achieving first oil in 2010 at the field was Heavey’s “most memorable” moment.