It became evident to coach Don Watson, soon after the Dudley family moved to Hinsdale from Hattiesburg, Mississippi and joined his swimming team in Hinsdale, Illinois - that Bob Dudley was a special individual with special talents and qualities that would lead him to become the head of British Petroleum today.
Bob made a commitment to Watson’s demanding year round training schedule and was a member of four state high school championship teams. He also took on the additional duties with the Hinsdale Guard, an organization of 40 plus students who supported school and community swimming programs and volunteered his time and service to teach school children swimming.
“Looking back to his years at Hinsdale high School” says Watson, “I think of Bob as being always Cool, Calm, Disciplined, Confident, Friendly, and Fair…. Family, Honesty, Integrity, Responsibility, Loyalty, Faith and Commitment are words that defined his character and personality – and still do.”
While a shoulder injury kept him from swimming in college and pursuing his dream of attending the US Naval Academy, he chose a different course that led him where he is today.
After earning a degree in chemical engineering, Bob Dudley went to work in the oil industry for Amoco, which was later acquired by British Petroleum. From 2003-2008 he was president and chief executive of a joint venture between BP and a group of Russian billionaires. Although the joint venture increased oil output by a third, the rocky relationship reached a point where he faced “sustained harassment” that led him to feel life-threatened, and left the country. In 2009, he was selected to be a managing director of BP, with oversight of the company’s activities in the Americas and Asia. One morning in April of 2010, while on business in India, he turned on the TV to catch up on news, only to find footage of the Deepwater Horizon inferno. Within hours he was on a plane headed for Houston from halfway across the world, charged with leading crisis resolution and restoration efforts for the gulf of Mexico and the beaches that he swam and played in growing up in Mississippi. In October, as BP shares were halved and talk swirled about it seeking bankruptcy protection, Bob Dudley was elevated to CEO and tabbed with saving the ship. And he has done so, steering BP to what Forbes Magazine calls one of the great corporate survival stories in business history.
Not only has he saved the ship, he created a new safety division that made BP the top industry leading Safety and Environmental Performer of 2013 and is one of the most admired corporate CEO’s in the world today.