Occidental names Vicki Hollub first woman CEO of a big U.S. oil firm

Occidental Petroleum Corp. named Vicki Hollub as chief executive officer Friday, making her the first female CEO of a major U.S. energy explorer.

Hollub, 56, an Occidental lifer who oversaw Western Hemisphere fields pumping almost half the company’s production before becoming global president last year, takes over as Stephen Chazen, her mentor at the second-largest independent oil explorer, retired.

The handover was approved by Occidental directors during a conclave that followed the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Midland, Texas, on Friday, according to a statement issued by the Houston-based company.

Hollub inherits a slimmed-down Occidental that under Chazen’s leadership shed assets from California to the Middle East amid the worst oil-market collapse in at least a generation. Chazen, 69, said in an interview on Friday that he plans to concentrate on philanthropy in his retirement.

“His lasting legacy is reflected in our success,” Hollub said of her former boss during the shareholders meeting.

Occidental shares have risen 13 percent this year, more than seven times the increase seen by bigger rival ConocoPhillips and outperforming the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Hollub is a University of Alabama-trained mineral engineer who’s seen Occidental shift from the far-flung international conglomerate assembled by the late Armand Hammer to an oil producer focused on Texas, a handful of Persian Gulf countries and Latin America.

ConocoPhillips is the world’s largest independent oil producer by market value, a category of explorers that don’t also own refineries.

© 2016 Bloomberg L.P