The ‘unlikely oil man’ who grew up on a dairy farm and dumped his wife via WhatsApp: How perma-tanned fitness fanatic Bernard Looney climbed the ranks to become £10M-a-year BP boss before quitting in storm of controversy over work relationships

The BP boss who quit last night in a storm of controversy is a perma-tanned fitness fanatic who grew up on a dairy farm and dumped his wife via WhatsApp, MailOnline can reveal.

Bernard Looney, 53, shocked the City by stepping down as chief executive of the oil and gas giant after admitting he had not been ‘fully transparent’ during a probe into past relationships with colleagues.

While millions of Britons have struggled with the cost-of-living crisis since Covid, the Irishman, who lives in ‘opulence’ in a lavish central London house, has enjoyed a profitable few years, having been awarded a pay package of £1.7million in 2020. His 2021 salary is expected to be millions higher when it is published in BP’s annual report next month.

He was married for two years to high-flying life coach, Jacqueline Hurst but ended the relationship abruptly by text, leaving her claiming that he only wedded her to get ahead at BP.

The rise of Mr Looney – who is described by friends as ‘unlikely an oil man as you would meet’ that works out in the gym most mornings – has been a wildly different one to many of his City colleagues.

Bernard Looney, 53, shocked the City by stepping down as CEO after admitting he had not been ‘fully transparent’ during a probe into past relationships with colleagues

Mr Looney spent nearly three decades climbing the ranks at BP, having started out as a drill engineer in the North Sea near Aberdeen in 1991

Mr Looney spent nearly three decades climbing the ranks at BP, having started out as a drill engineer in the North Sea near Aberdeen in 1991

Away from work, he has been married to life coach and GQ Magazine columnist Jacqueline Hurst, who Masterchef's Gregg Wallace credited with helping relieve his anxiety before his stint on last year's Strictly Come Dancing

Away from work, he has been married to life coach and GQ Magazine columnist Jacqueline Hurst, who Masterchef’s Gregg Wallace credited with helping relieve his anxiety before his stint on last year’s Strictly Come Dancing

Ms Hurst, who has been married twice, wrote about her relationship with Mr Looney in her self-published book How To Do You: the Life Changing Art of Mastering Your Thoughts and Taking Control of Your Life

Ms Hurst, who has been married twice, wrote about her relationship with Mr Looney in her self-published book How To Do You: the Life Changing Art of Mastering Your Thoughts and Taking Control of Your Life

His story began in humble surroundings in the town of Kenmare in County Kerry, where he was raised on a farm which had just 14 cows and eight acres of arable lands.

It was thought he would take over the farm, where he was the ‘gopher’, but his mother encouraged him to get an education.

‘She told me if you can read you can do anything,’ he said in a recent interview.

Both his parents had left school when they were 11, but he became the first in the family to go to university.

One of his brothers still works as a police officer in the small town and the other is an electrician.

After graduating in engineering from University College Dublin, he moved to London and joined BP.

Mr Looney eventually secured himself the top job, just before the first Covid lockdown, but only after nearly three decades of climbing the ranks, having started out as a drill engineer in the North Sea near Aberdeen in 1991. 

He then was part of the Deepwater Horizon team in Mexico, which is forever associated with an oil spill in 2010 that dumped 210million gallons into the sea.

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

The rise of Mr Looney - described by friends as 'unlikely an oil man as you would meet' who works out in the gym most mornings - has been a wildly different one to many of his City colleagues

The rise of Mr Looney – described by friends as ‘unlikely an oil man as you would meet’ who works out in the gym most mornings – has been a wildly different one to many of his City colleagues

Colleagues describe Mr Looney as a 'workaholic' and say he maintained an aggressive travel schedule

Colleagues describe Mr Looney as a ‘workaholic’ and say he maintained an aggressive travel schedule

His story began in humble surroundings in the town of Kenmare in County Kerry, where he was raised on a farm which had just 14 cows and eight acres of arable lands

His story began in humble surroundings in the town of Kenmare in County Kerry, where he was raised on a farm which had just 14 cows and eight acres of arable lands

Colleagues describe him as a ‘workaholic’ and say he maintained an aggressive travel schedule.

In 2018, he said: ‘BP is a company that has given me everything I have in my life’, and referred to it as ‘a cash machine’ during strong market periods.

Since taking leadership of the company, he announced a net zero ambition by 2050 and a ‘new purpose of reimagining energy for people and our planet’.

As well as praise from some corners of the industry, it also brought him detractors, who referred 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 also came 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 said. 

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

He is a regular user of social media, using Instagram in particular to speak directly to the public, saying: ‘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 added that he wanted people to open up about their oil and gas industry concerns, writing: ‘I encourage you all to be candid – I consider honest and open discussion crucial.’

Mr Looney dumped Ms Hurst (pictured) by WhatsApp and they divorced after just two years of marriage, with her claiming that he only wedded her to get ahead at BP

Mr Looney dumped Ms Hurst (pictured) by WhatsApp and they divorced after just two years of marriage, with her claiming that he only wedded her to get ahead at BP

He is a regular user of social media, using Instagram in particular to speak directly to the public

He is a regular user of social media, using Instagram in particular to speak directly to the public

Mr Looney now lives in 'opulence' in a lavish house in central London, according to a friend

Mr Looney now lives in ‘opulence’ in a lavish house in central London, according to a friend

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

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

Away from work, he has been married to life coach and GQ Magazine columnist, Jacqueline Hurst, who Masterchef’s Gregg Wallace credited with helping relieve his anxiety before his stint on last year’s Strictly Come Dancing.

But Mr Looney dumped her by WhatsApp and they divorced after just two years of marriage, with her claiming that he only wedded her to get ahead at BP.

Ms Hurst, who has been married twice, wrote about her relationship with Mr Looney in her self-published book How To Do You: the Life Changing Art of Mastering Your Thoughts and Taking Control of Your Life.

She 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.’

The couple had married in October 2017 and divorced in 2019, three months before he became chief executive. They had no children.

A friend of Mr Looney’s told the Sunday 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.’

Ms Hurst has also spoken of her struggles with anorexia and drug addiction. Speaking to the Mail in 2015, she said: ‘Because I was lonely I fell in with an older crowd outside school, who were already 18, and I discovered drugs. 

‘When one of the girls handed me a joint I felt like I’d found heaven – the marijuana switched off all my feelings. I smoked daily and took up cigarettes and alcohol as well. 

‘With everything spiralling out of control – the bullying, the drugs – my eating was the one thing I had control over. I started to become extremely regimented about food, skipping meals and having a cappuccino or an apple only at a specific time.

‘I decided I had to be thin. I thought that the thinner I was, the better person I’d be. It wasn’t even about how I looked; it was all to do with craving control. I was also struggling with turning into a woman; I didn’t want the attention from boys, so I wanted my body to shrink.

‘Gradually, I slipped into anorexia and became very ill. My hair started to fall out and my skin turned yellow from malnutrition, but I didn’t care. 

‘The thinner I was, the more in control I felt, but it was never satisfying because there was always the pressure to stay that thin. I never felt thin enough.’

BP said on Tuesday that Mr Looney, who was last year paid £10million, had resigned as chief executive with immediate effect, with chief financial officer Murray Auchinloss replacing him on an interim basis

BP said on Tuesday that Mr Looney, who was last year paid £10million, had resigned as chief executive with immediate effect, with chief financial officer Murray Auchinloss replacing him on an interim basis

Ms Hurst has also previously spoken of her struggles with anorexia and drug addiction (picture as a child)

Ms Hurst has also previously spoken of her struggles with anorexia and drug addiction (picture as a child)

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

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

She added: ‘It all came to a head when I was 25. By then, I’d walked out of my job, split up with the boyfriend and was staying in a friend’s empty flat, which was effectively a squat. 

‘I was no longer speaking to my family. I remember sitting on my sofa one morning thinking it’d be better for me to die.

Then, a few hours later, out of the blue, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find my mother standing there. She walked in and gave me a big hug, telling me, ‘I love you. What’s going on? Are you depressed? Are you ill? Where has my beautiful daughter gone?’ 

‘It was the first time I truly saw how concerned she was and that I didn’t need to pretend that I was so independent I didn’t need help. I finally admitted, ‘Mum, I’m a drug addict.’

‘I was so relieved. I could stop the fight with drugs. Mum was amazing, telling me she would do whatever it took to help me. My mindset shifted in that moment; I was willing to do anything to get clean, sober and healthy. I had to get better because otherwise I would die.’

Mr Looney now lives in ‘opulence’ in a lavish house in central London, according to a friend.

BP said on Tuesday that Mr Looney, who was last year paid £10million, had resigned as chief executive with immediate effect, with chief financial officer Murray Auchinloss replacing him on an interim basis.

It revealed that the company’s board had been first alerted in May 2022 to claims from an anonymous source about Mr Looney’s relationships. 

After it launched a review, Mr Looney ‘disclosed a small number of historical relationships with colleagues prior to becoming CEO’ – but was found not to have breached BP’s code of conduct.

The board ‘was given assurances by Mr Looney regarding disclosure of past personal relationships as well as his future behaviour’. 

But after further allegations ‘of a similar nature’ were received recently, the company said it began a fresh investigation – which remains ongoing.

‘Mr Looney has today informed the company that he now accepts that he was not fully transparent in his previous disclosures,’ BP said.

‘He did not provide details of all relationships and accepts he was obligated to more complete disclosure. 

‘The company has strong values and the board expects everyone at the company to behave in accordance with those values.’

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