(Bloomberg) -- Suncor Energy Inc.’s new Chief Executive Officer Rich Kruger came out of retirement to take the job. Now that he’s been selected for the role, including with input from activist investor Elliott Investment Management LP, he plans to stay for the long haul and help revive the struggling Canadian oil producer.
He’s so committed, in fact, that he sold his house in Texas to move back to Suncor’s base in Calgary, the epicenter of Canada’s energy industry.
“This is home, and I plan to be here a while,” Kruger, 64, said in an interview at Suncor headquarters on Tuesday.
Kruger was named CEO in February after a seven-month search to replace Mark Little, who stepped down in July after a string of worker deaths and pressure from billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott. Two of the activist’s handpicked board members were on the committee that chose Kruger.
Kruger, who officially started as CEO on April 3, previously spent nearly four decades at Exxon Mobil Corp., including six years as CEO of the company’s Imperial Oil Ltd. Canadian division.
“There’s a lot of things that my background, my experience, my personal attributes can bring to add value here,” Kruger said.
One of Kruger’s main tasks will be improving Suncor’s safety record, which he says has been hobbled by inconsistent adherence to systems that are generally sound.
“One of the things I’ve observed that’s different from the culture where I spent the bulk of my career is that we have a bit of a variability in the application,” Kruger said. “Generally, I like to reduce variability to the highest level of performance. So this is where I’m spending some time now with leadership teams, talking about my own thoughts on safety and operational integrity.”
An area Kruger said he’s not likely to focus on early in his tenure is to reopen the question of whether to sell Suncor’s gas-station business, which operates more than 1,500 locations under the Petro-Canada brand. Elliott had recommended that Suncor consider selling the unit, and the company evaluated the possibility but decided against it.
While Suncor will periodically review all of its assets to determine whether they fit best in the company’s portfolio or should be sold, Kruger said he doesn’t “feel an urgency” to review the retail business again.
(Updates with comments on retail unit in ninth paragraph)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.