British Petroleum Chairman Sir Peter Walters to Quit


Sir Peter Walters, chairman of British Petroleum PLC, plans to retire next March after 35 years of service and will be succeeded by the former head of BP America Inc.

British Petroleum, the world’s third-largest oil concern in sales after Exxon Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Group, said Robert Horton will replace Walters as chairman. Horton, 50, is the former chief executive of British Petroleum’s U.S. subsidiary based in Cleveland. He was appointed deputy chairman March 1.

Walters, 58, has been managing director of the company for 17 years and chairman since 1981. He was knighted in 1984. His retirement is effective March 10, the company said.


Walters had been poised to step down this year and take over as chairman of National Westminster Bank but could not come to terms with the bank. He resigned from BP’s board in August.

Earlier this year, Walters drew criticism within the company for accepting a 48% increase in his compensation to 514,558 pounds, or about $800,000 at current exchange rates.

When he became chairman in 1981, Walters said he hoped to restructure the company within 10 years and then retire. His first moves were to sharply reduce BP’s refining capacity in Europe, turning a $1-billion-a-year loss to a $1-billion profit within four years.

Since the start of the decade, BP’s European refining capacity has been cut by 57%.

Horton was in charge of cutting losses in BP Chemicals International Group.

During Walters’ term, BP acquired the outstanding 45% minority interest in Standard Oil for $7.8 billion in 1987 and undertook a $4-billion takeover of Britoil last year.

The full takeover of Standard Oil has allowed BP to integrate its U.S. operations under BP America and call off a disastrous exploration program that cost Standard billions of dollars. Half of BP’s assets are in the United States.

The acquisition of Britoil gave BP a major stake in the North Sea as a hedge against declining production. Although the company has said it can maintain production of 1.7 million barrels a day until the mid-1990s, its two main oil fields, Forties in the North Sea and Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, have peaked.


Walters, a native of Birmingham in central England, joined BP in 1954 and was involved mainly with the company’s international oil supply organization, including assignments to the New York office in 1960-62 and as vice president of BP North America Inc. in 1965-67.

In 1971, he was appointed BP’s regional director for the Western Hemisphere, Australasia and the Far East. He was named deputy chairman in 1980.

The company did not announce Walters’ plans after retirement.

Horton joined BP in 1957 and was appointed general manager of BP Tanker Co. in 1975. The next year, he was appointed general manager of BP Group’s Corporate Planning Department.

In 1980, he became chief executive of BP Chemicals International. He was elected to the board in December, 1983, as a managing director with responsibility for finance, planning and the Western Hemisphere.

He resigned from British Petroleum in 1986 to become chairman and chief executive of Standard Oil. After the merger of BP and Standard in 1987, he was appointed chief executive officer of BP America.