Incoming National Oilwell Varco CEO speaks on plans for future

HOUSTON — The incoming CEO of National Oilwell Varco expects to continue the company’s growth focus, saying the company’s spate of dealmaking likely will continue when he takes the helm next year.

National Oilwell Varco announced Thursday that Chief Operating Officer Clay Williams will succeed Pete Miller as CEO following the spin off of the company’s distribution business, expected to be completed by April.

Miller has led the Houston-based oil field equipment company for 12 years and has acquired more than 250 businesses during that time.

In an interview with FuelFix Thursday, Williams, 51, said he plans to continue similar efforts.

“We’ve been a very acquisitive company in the past and we know that acquisitions frequently take a long time to cultivate and to close and so we continue to look at things to do out there in the meantime,” he said.

Surprise announcement

Miller will leave the company to become executive chairman of the publicly traded spinoff company. Miller could not be reached for comment immediately.

Williams said Miller’s decision to step down as CEO was sudden.

“He surprised me one day two weeks ago,” he said.

Williams credited the CEO for much of National Oilwell Varco’s success. Miller joined the company in 1996, when NOV had 1,200 employees. Now the business has 60,000 workers and pulled in more than $20 billion in revenue last year.

“Pete has been a terrific leader here and is very much the architect of what NOV is today and all of us here are grateful,” Williams said.

Earnings: NOV profit rises slightly on rig technology sales

Williams said he is optimistic about the future for both men and believes the spinoff will be positive for both companies, leaving National Oilwell Varco more focused on the oil field.

“This is an exciting time for our company and there are a lot of things going on here that are very, very good,” he said.

“I think we have tremendous franchises in the oil field and a terrific workforce that executes our businesses very well,” Williams added. “I think the growth prospects in the oil field are very, very exciting.”

Similar strategy

National Oilwell Varco designs and manufactures oil field equipment, including many of the automated devices that have moved drilling operations to a new level of efficiency.

Williams said the company’s current focus is completing the separation of its distribution business while ensuring that its other operations are not affected.

Once the separation is complete, National Oilwell Varco will refocus, he said.

“That’ll give us an opportunity to kind of reflect on what we have here at NOV and reset ourselves for the future going forward,” Williams said.

Williams said his history with the company, dating to the mid-1990s, would not lead to a dramatic change in leadership or strategy.

“I don’t think Wall Street’s expecting anything different,” he said.

Wall Street response

Miller previously served as president of Anadarko Drilling Company and vice president of U.S. operations for Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co.

He has a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School and an engineering degree from the U.S. Military Academy.

Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. said in a research note Thursday morning that the choice of Williams as Miller’s replacement was as expected.

“Clay as successor was expected and is very capable of leading NOV going forward,” the report said.

Here is what analyst Bill Herbert at Simmons & Co. International said about Miller in a research note Thursday: “Pete’s legacy is a formidable one. During his tenure he displayed singular strategic vision and resolve in building NOV to become the global colossus of the rig capital equipment industry. Pete helped revolutionize and consolidate a fragmented and strategically moribund industry and played a pivotal role in the transformation of the energy industry. He leaves a sterling legacy of accomplishment and value creation.”


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