Bill Klesse, the lifetime Valero Energy employee who is credited with maintaining the company's growth when gasoline priced tumbled to $1.30 during the first days of the 2008 recession, announced today that he will retire effective May 1, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Klesse is the second head of a major San Antonio company to announce his retirement in the past two weeks. Joe Robles, the CEO of USAA, announced plans to retire two weeks ago.
Valero Energy is the ninth largest corporation in the United States, according to the 2013 Fortune 500 list, between General Motors and Ford Motor Company. It is the largest independent refiner in the world.
"I would like to thank our employees, Valero's shareholders, our customers and suppliers, and our communities where we live and work," Klesse said in a statement released by Valero Monday.
Klesse, 67, has worked his entire career, 45, years, for Valero and its predecessors. He became CEO in 2005. He will be succeeded by President Joe Gorder in a pre arranged succession agreement.
"He has decided that it is time for him to retire, maybe do something different," Valero spokesman Bill day said.
Klesse is credited with building Valero into not only the largest refiner in North America, but one of the nation's largest producers of Ethanol, as he led the company's move into alternative fuels. Klesse also built up Valero's Corner Stores and oversaw their spinoff into an independent company, the third largest in San Antonio.
But it is Klesse's leadership during the recession which is receiving the most praise.
"Refining was doing fairly well when he took over, but then the economy went into a downturn, and really Bill Klesse was the right person at the right time and the right place to lead Valero through that downturn," Day said. "Refining lives and dies by the economy, and if the economy is not doing well, the refining industry is not going to do well. But Valero not only survived that time period, but did very well. We expanded into the Ethanol business at that time, because we were able to buy a plant for a low price."
Day says due to Klesse's leadership, Valero is thriving again, and feels comfortable about turning the reins over to Gorder.
"We have done a lot of things to add value to our shareholders at a time when similar companies were not doing very well," Day said.
Gorder is the long time President of Valero Europe. His appointment as President of the Corporate was a part of the leadership transition, Day said.