Let’s pretend for the moment you head up the midstream division of the nation’s largest independent refiner. You accepted the CEO position for that unit just last year. Then a sweeping restructuring plan comes along from the company’s largest shareholder—a hedge fund management group—that may very well split off that part of the business you lead. And by the way, that shareholder and the company board members aren’t too nuts about the corporate CEO either. That’s exactly what happened to Michael Hennigan, whose position at Marathon Petroleum’s MPLX midstream division took a sudden 180-degree turn this week.

Marathon Petroleum

Marathon Petroleum Corporation is an American petroleum refining, marketing, and transportation company headquartered in Findlay, Ohio. The company was a wholly owned subsidiary of Marathon Oil until a corporate spin-off in 2011.


The proposed restructuring from N.Y.-based shareholder Elliott Management, one of the oldest hedge fund managers, came about last fall with calls for new Marathon leadership and a demand to separate the business units into three separate companies—refining, midstream, and gas station operations. Marathon balked at the separation notion, claiming it would result in the loss of $11-$15 billion for shareholders. But shortly thereafter, while the board explored a new replacement at the helm, the company announced it would explore a spin-off of its 4,000-unit Speedway convenience store network. Fast-forward to February when Marathon said it will sell its Speedway operations.

After an extensive review of the MPLX division by all three deciding factions, Marathon has decided to keep the current structure of its midstream business intact—the one Hennigan rose to lead less than a year ago. And in a surprising twist, Hennigan now has been named CEO of the entire company. You never know what’s right around the corner.

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