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Chevron names Michael Wirth chairman and CEO

  • Chevron Vice Chairman and Executive Vice President Michael Wirth will take over as CEO and chairman of the oil major in February.
  • Current Chief Executive John Watson will step down after 37 years at Chevron.
  • Wirth has been with Chevron at 1982 and has held a number of executive positions at the company.
Michael Wirth, Chevron Corp.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Michael Wirth, Chevron Corp.

Chevron on Thursday announced that the oil major's vice chairman, Michael Wirth, will take over as chief executive officer and chairman of the board in February.

Wirth, who also serves as executive vice president of midstream and development, has spent more than three decades at Chevron.

Current CEO John Watson will retire from the company and the board on Feb. 1, 2018.

"Mike is a proven leader who is ideally suited to lead Chevron into the next chapter of our history," Watson said in a press release. "He has the right values, knowledge and experience, and has established a strong record of accomplishment in his 35 years with the company."

Shares of Chevron rose nearly half a percent to about $118 following the announcement.

Wirth's promotion, widely expected since last month, puts a refining specialist at the helm of the San Ramon, California-headquartered integrated oil company.

The 56-year-old holds a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and spent roughly 10 years as executive vice president of Chevron's downstream and chemicals business — a segment responsible for refining crude oil into gasoline and operating the massive facilities that produce petrochemicals like plastics.

Chevron Chairman and CEO John Watson
Eric Piermont | AFP | Getty Images
Chevron Chairman and CEO John Watson

Refining operations have been critical to protecting the balance sheets at giant oil and gas companies at a time of persistently low oil and gas prices.

"I appreciate the confidence that John and the board have placed in me. Chevron has a proud 138-year history of developing the energy that improves lives and powers the world forward. I am honored to have been selected to carry on that tradition," Wirth said in the release.

In his current role, Wirth is responsible for a broad portfolio that includes Chevron's business transporting fossil fuels and its unit that generates and manages power from gas-fired facilities and renewable sources. He is also in charge of Chevron's trading hubs, which buy and sell crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products.

According to Chevron's website, Wirth also plays a role in corporate strategy, business development, and policy, government and public affairs.

Wirth worked in the refining and chemicals business prior to his current role. Before that, he was president of global supply and trading from 2003 to 2006. He started his tenure at Chevron as a design engineer in 1982.

Watson, 61, will step down following 37 years at Chevron and having served as its top executive and chairman for the last eight years.

"I have been blessed to have had the extraordinary opportunity to lead Chevron, and I will miss my daily interactions with our dedicated employees around the world," Watson said.

Chevron also announced that its vice president for strategic planning, Mark Nelson, will become vice president of midstream, strategy and policy on Feb. 1. Nelson, 54, will oversee "supply and trading, shipping, pipeline and power operating units" as well as corporate strategy, policy and government and public affairs in his new role, Chevron said.