Nabors CEO Eugene Isenberg steps down; COO Anthony Petrello takes helm

Nabors Industries Ltd. CEO Eugene Isenberg has stepped down after more than two decades at the helm, and longtime company President Anthony Petrello will take over as chief executive officer immediately, the international oil and gas drilling company announced Friday afternoon.

Isenberg, 81, has led the company since 1987, when the company was emerging from bankruptcy. He will continue to chair Nabors’ board of directors, said company spokesman Dennis Smith. During his tenure, the company has become one of the world’s largest onshore drilling contractors.

Petrello, 57, had been Nabors president and chief operating officer for nearly 20 years and serves as deputy chairman. He has been Isenberg’s designated successor since he was recruited to the company in 1991, Smith said. The board made the executive change at its Friday board meeting.

“I have complete confidence that Tony is the right person to take over as CEO,” Isenberg said in a written statement. “We have worked closely together for 20 years, and he has a deep knowledge of the Company’s operations and strategy.”

Petrello is a Harvard Law School graduate who practiced international arbitration, taxation and corporate law prior to joining Nabors.  He had been managing partner at Baker & McKenzie law firm’s New York office since 1986, according to Nabors.

Isenberg and Petrello frequently rank among Houston’s top-paid executives. Isenberg has claimed the top spot three times since 2006. Last year, he was the 10th highest compensated executive, scoring a $13.5 million pay package. Petrello pulled in $9 million and ranked No. 28.

Nabors’ headquarters is listed in Bermuda, but its executives are based in Houston. Petrello and his wife Cynthia are active in Houston society.

Petrello received attention this summer for a legal fight with a farmer in a posh New York area called the Hamptons. The farmer accused the oil executive of swindling him out of his families’ property.

Petrello has faced real-estate woes in Houston, as well. His $12 million mansion near Rice University suffered a fire in 2009. That same year, he accused his neighbor of discrimination, saying the neighbor refused to sell his home for the executive’s disabled daughter.