History of Chevron CEOs

HISTORY OF CHEVRON CEOS

LIST OF CEOS OF CHEVRON

  • Demetrius G. Scofield (1911-1917)
  • Kenneth R. Kingsbury (1919-1937) 
  • William H. Berg (1937-1940)
  • Harry D. Collier (1940-1945, 1950-1966)  
  • R. Gwin Follis (1945-1948)
  • Theodore S. Petersen (1948-1961)
  • Otto N. Miller (1961-1974)
  • Harold J. Haynes (1969-1974)  
  • George M. Keller (1981-1989)  
  • Kenneth T. Derr (1989-2000)
  • David J. O'Reilly (2000-2009)
  • John S. Watson (2009-2018)
  • Michael K. Wirth (2018-present)


DEMETRIUS G. SCOFIELD (1911-1917)

Portrait of DEMETRIUS G. SCOFIELD
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As Chevron's first CEO, Demetrius G. Scofield led the company, then known as Standard Oil Co. of California, from 1911 to 1917.

This was a formative period for the young oil company that had emerged after the landmark breakup of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil monopoly in 1911.

Under Scofield's steady guidance, the company expanded oil exploration and drilling operations throughout California.

New discoveries helped boost production. He also oversaw the construction of an oil tanker fleet and expanded refining and distribution capacity. The company grew its retail footprint within California and the Southwest during this period.

While few controversies emerged under Scofield's brief tenure, he did draw criticism from progressive forces about high consumer fuel prices in the West.

But Standard Oil defended its regional pricing policies. Scofield focused largely on disciplined growth rather than flashy marketing campaigns.

When America entered World War I in 1917, Scofield put Standard's might behind the national war effort. He resigned later that year for personal health reasons. But he established a solid foundation for the company.

KENNETH R. KINGSBURY (1919-1937)

Portrait of Kenneth R. Kingsbury
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Kenneth R. Kingsbury served as CEO of Standard Oil Company of California, later renamed Chevron, from 1919 until 1937.

This pivotal period saw "CalSo" emerge as a dominant player in the booming West Coast oil industry.

Kingsbury aggressively expanded pipelines and coastal refineries to meet rising gasoline demand for automobiles.

Under his leadership, CalSo pioneered oil exports to Asia, controlled lucrative oil shipping routes, and made major discoveries in Bahrain that secured access to Middle Eastern oil reserves.

The company prospered throughout the "roaring '20s."

However, Kingsbury's tenure was not without controversy.

In the 1930s, as a radical labor movement took hold in California, violent strikes and protests erupted at CalSo's facilities. Kingsbury oversaw a harsh crackdown on labor agitators to quell unrest and keep operations running.

This brought condemnation from worker allies.

Kingsbury retired in 1937 after nearly two decades guiding incredible growth at CalSo.

Revenues had multiplied more than fivefold during his tenure.

The company that began primarily as a West Coast oil concern was now emerging as a globally dominant industry player under Kingsbury’s visionary leadership.

WILLIAM H. BERG (1937-1940)

portrait of William H. Berg
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William H. Berg served briefly as CEO of Standard Oil of California from 1937 to 1940.

He had been a company executive since 1915.

Berg took the reins amid growing global tensions in the late 1930s.

On his watch, Standard Oil expanded oil exploration efforts in Saudi Arabia in 1938 that led to the discovery of the massive Ghawar Field—the world’s largest conventional oil field.

This hugely significant Middle East oil reserve would be developed after Berg’s tenure.

Domestically, Berg oversaw the completion of a major new oil pipeline connecting California fields to Northwest refineries. He also began supplying strategic petroleum stockpiles for the U.S. Military in 1940 as war broke out in Europe and Asia.

But Berg surprisingly resigned mid-year 1940, for unclear reasons, after only about 3 years as CEO.

While his tenure was short, it set the stage for Standard Oil’s increased oil production and supply capabilities heading into World War II under his successor.

The company accelerated its strategic alignment with U.S. military requirements during the global conflict that ensued over the next half decade.

HARRY D. COLLIER (1940-1945, 1950-1966)  

portrait of HARRY D. COLLIER
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Harry D. Collier had an outsized impact on Standard Oil of California, serving as its CEO from 1940-1945 and again from 1950-1966.

This 25-year tenure steered the company, renamed Chevron in 1984, into the upper echelon of global mega oil corporations.  

On Collier's watch, Standard Oil vastly expanded production, pipelines, tankers and refining capacity to supply fuel for the sustained war effort during World War II in the 1940s.

Sales doubled and profits quadrupled. Post-war, Collier oversaw the diversification into petrochemicals and the retail expansion of the Chevron consumer brand launched in the 1930s.

The 1950s and early '60s saw tremendous growth, with new discoveries in the Middle East and Africa.

But controversies also emerged.

In the late 1950s, price-fixing scandals involving "Big Oil" companies like Standard Oil marred the industry.

Collier had to defend the company before Congress. By the mid-1960s, pollution concerns over leaking offshore oil wells off California's coast also tainted Standard Oil's reputation.

Upon retirement in 1966 after a monumental 25 years guiding the company, Collier had grown Standard's annual revenues by over 15 fold.

From the war years to the boom years, he significantly shaped Chevron's trajectory.

R. GWIN FOLLIS (1945-1948)

portrait of R. Gwin Follis
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R. Gwin Follis served as CEO of Standard Oil Company of California for a short but pivotal period from 1945 to 1948.

He had retired as a company executive in 1940 but was called back to duty amid leadership changes during World War II.

Follis provided essential continuity of leadership during the war years as Standard Oil contributed enormously to supplying petroleum for the U.S. military and its allies—becoming one of the nation’s largest wartime contractors.

In the immediate post-war years under Follis, the company rapidly adjusted from military to civilian market needs, meeting rapidly growing oil and gas demand to power economic expansion and the accelerating use by consumers of automobiles and planes.

Although likely ready again for retirement, the company persuaded the respected Follis to shepherd management changes before he stepped down again in 1948 after helping guide the very successful transition period.

While lacking the extraordinarily long tenure of some other top executives, Follis’s two critical separate leadership periods maintained Standard Oil’s operational excellence, revenues and stature amid one of the most disruptive eras for the oil industry and the world.

THEODORE S. PETERSEN (1948-1961)

portrait of Theodore S. Petersen
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Theodore S. Petersen led Standard Oil of California from 1948 to 1961.

He inherited strong growth momentum from wartime gains, and continued vigorously expanding oil exploration, production, shipping and refining operations. By 1957, the company discovered new huge oil reserves in Sumatra and Alaska's Cook Inlet.

Known as a bold leader, Petersen significantly grew the company through vertical integration and joint partnerships regionally and globally.

He acquired the prestigious West Coast oil firm Ritchfield in 1955.

To tap into the era's aviation boom, Standard began leasing planes and operating airfields. The product portfolio also expanded into petrochemicals and atomic energy under Petersen's growth vision.  

However, Petersen drew criticism from early environmental groups for the company's vast expansion of offshore oil drilling up the California coast, raising pollution concerns. He also had to defend price manipulation allegations before a U.S Senate committee in 1959.

But overall, he significantly grew the company and revenues during his 14-year tenure as head of Standard Oil.

OTTO N. MILLER (1961-1974)

Portrait of Otto N. Miller
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Otto N. Miller served as President and later Chairman of Standard Oil Company of California from 1961 to 1974.

This period saw the company expand both geographically and across the energy sector.

Miller oversaw the discovery of considerable new oil and gas reserves in Southeast Asia and the North Sea.

He also shifted the company more into natural gas and nuclear power as diversification accelerated. Under his leadership, Standard Oil became a global vertically integrated energy company rather than just an oil producer and refiner.  

But Miller's tenure was also beset by controversy as public attitudes shifted on environmental issues. Offshore oil spills tarnished the company's image in the late 1960s.

Standard Oil also faced investigations over whether it deliberately limited refinery production during the 1973 OPEC oil crisis leading to shortages and price spikes. And in 1969, Miller had to respond to allegations of oilfield safety violations overseas.  

While sometimes facing criticism, Miller maintained strong company performance, grew revenues nearly fivefold, and broadened Standard Oil's global footprint during his 14 years as CEO before retiring in 1974.

The company was well positioned to meet the new energy landscape.

HAROLD J. HAYNES (1969-1974)  

Portrait of Harold J. Haynes
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Harold J. Haynes served as CEO of Standard Oil of California from 1969 to 1974, overlapping with and succeeding long-time President Otto N. Miller.

This period saw the company face rising public scrutiny and turbulent world events that challenged big oil companies.

In 1969, a major oil spill off California's coast splashed across national headlines, damaging Standard Oil’s reputation. Haynes oversaw significant investments in pollution control and tanker safety improvements in the spill’s aftermath.

He also guided the company through the 1973 OPEC oil embargo which disrupted global supply channels. Domestically, Standard Oil had to manage new regulations like petroleum price controls and supply allocation orders with long gas station lines.

While navigating challenges, Haynes also focused on business modernization and diversification efforts into minerals, geothermal power, coal and aerospace.

Seeking more transparent governance amid anti-trust lawsuits against Big Oil peers, Haynes decentralized the management structure into 7 divisions upon retiring in 1974 after a demanding 5 years guiding Standard Oil’s course.

GEORGE M. KELLER (1981-1989)  

portrait of George M. Keller
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George M. Keller served as CEO of Standard Oil of California, renamed Chevron in 1984, from 1981 until 1989.

This period saw "Chevron Corp" formally emerge as California Standard’s new corporate identity after acquiring the Gulf Oil Company in 1984—the largest merger in history at that time.

Keller oversaw the consolidation of Chevron's new national footprint by divesting some Gulf operations to satisfy antitrust concerns while still greatly expanding Chevron’s scope as a refining, marketing and exploration giant.

Under Keller, Chevron made new oil discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.

As the oil glut of the early 1980s with falling prices transitioned to a supply crunch by mid-decade, Chevron revenues swung higher.

But the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 marred the industry and highlighted risks of Chevron’s expanded coastal, pipeline and tanker networks.

Keller established one of the oil industry’s first dedicated environmental departments by his retirement in 1989 after navigating the vast challenges of integrating two big oil rivals into one of the world's mega energy companies.

KENNETH T. DERR (1989-2000)

Portrait of Kenneth T. Derr
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Kenneth T. Derr served as Chevron's CEO and Chairman from 1989 to 2000.

This period saw the transformed company rebrand itself as the "Human Energy Company" to counter its Big Oil image. Under Derr, Chevron expanded both geographically and across the energy sector into new areas like biofuels and power cogeneration.

Seeking strategic global footholds, Derr oversaw new international exploration and partnerships in Kazakhstan, Africa and Latin America.

The company’s $43 billion natural gas project in Australia launched under Derr was the largest industrial investment in that country’s history. Revenue and profits surged for much of the 1990s.

But a patch of setbacks marred Derr’s later tenure.

The Asian Financial Crisis damaged earnings. And Chevron suffered brand damage when protesters were killed confronting company oil operations in Nigeria and offshore California.

Derr responded by establishing new corporate responsibility policies before retiring in 2000 after a period of tremendous growth often intertwined with turbulence.

DAVID J. O'REILLY (2000-2009)

Portrait of David J. O’Reilly
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David J. O’Reilly served as Chevron’s CEO and Chairman from 2000 to 2009, a period of historic expansion for the company marked by both prosperity and controversy.

Under O’Reilly, Chevron’s biggest move was acquiring rival Texaco in 2001 to form the second-largest U.S. integrated oil company.  

This merger made Chevron a truly global energy titan, allowing expansion across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

But the early 2000s also brought scandal stemming from Texaco’s past oil pollution in Ecuador that led to a $18 billion lawsuit judgment against Chevron.

O'Reilly fiercely fought the ruling but it damaged Chevron's reputation.

Still, overall financial performance stayed strong under O'Reilly's leadership thanks to surging oil prices in the 2000s.

With profits doubling from 2004 to 2008, O’Reilly oversaw Chevron's investment spread broadly into renewable energies and advanced technologies too.

But a crisis struck amid the 2008 market crash, providing an opening for O'Reilly's retirement in 2009 after a momentous decade for the company.

JOHN S. WATSON (2009-2018)

Portrait of John S. Watson
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John S. Watson served as Chevron's Chairman and CEO from 2009 to 2018, a volatile period of Both significant expansion and belt-tightening.

Under Watson, Chevron positioned itself as the best-run integrated oil company with record profits in 2011-2014 amid surging output and $100+ oil. Major investments expanded liquefied natural gas (LNG) production in Australia and crude from US shale reserves.

But Watson also had to impose budget discipline when oil crashed below $30 in 2015-16, significantly slashing spending and over 10% of jobs while still protecting shareholder payouts.

Environmental conflicts still dogged the company from unresolved Ecuador liability to oil spills off Brazil and California.

Watson made large bets on future production in Canada's oil sands and the American Permian Basin before retiring in early 2018.

During nearly a decade steering Chevron as oil prices yo-yoed wildly, Watson still delivered strong overall shareholder returns while working to contain global controversy over environmental issues impacting the company’s reputation.

MICHAEL K. WIRTH (2018-PRESENT)

Portrait of Michael K. Wirth
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Michael K. Wirth has served as Chevron's Chairman and CEO since 2018.

He inherited a strong company after rising through multiple leadership roles over his 35-year career there. Under Wirth, Chevron has navigated immense global volatility.

Oil crashed into negative pricing in 2020 due to COVID-19 before soaring to over $120 per barrel after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022—generating immense earnings for all oil majors including record Chevron profits.

Along the way, Wirth steered about $30 billion in acquisitions to expand operations while aiming for net zero carbon emissions from oil operations by 2050 to answer climate critics.

Chevron now stands as the most profitable integrated major oil firm, surpassing even ExxonMobil this past year.

But Wirth also wants Chevron recognized as an innovative “new energy” company pursuing renewable fuels of the future to evolve beyond oil, directing company investments into hydrogen, biofuels, carbon reduction, and even geothermal energy innovations.

Nearly halfway through Wirth’s tenure so far, Chevron remains highly profitable, disciplined and even visionary under his leadership in a fast-transforming world for Big Oil companies facing economic, political and environmental pressures from all sides.

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