Winter 2009

Feature Story

Your Haas Network

Steve Crowe, BS 69, MBA 70
Retired Chief Financial Officer, Chevron
San Ramon, Calif.


Sports and major-league business have at least one thing in common, says Steve Crowe, BS 69, MBA 70. “The serious players always want to get in the game.” And when the game was the acquisition of a major oil company, the recently retired Chevron CFO had the best performance of his career.

In 2005, Chevron bid $17.9 billion for smaller rival Unocal. The deal was near closure when China National Offshore Oil offered a surprise bid of $18.5 billion. Deep in plans to integrate the two companies, Chevron CEO David O’Reilly passed the “quarterbacking” of the contested offer to Crowe. After four intense months, the 115-year-old company was Chevron’s. It was, says Crowe, the highlight of his 36 years at Chevron.

Crowe, who retired as CFO Dec 31, is not the picture of a hard-ball oil executive. His conversational style is relaxed, his dress business casual. But don’t be fooled. His years at Chevron were marked by steady progression through the finance organization to comptroller in 1996 and ultimately chief financial officer of the third largest company in the United States.

Along the way he held more than a dozen positions within the company. “My time at Berkeley gave me a broad base to do many different things for one employer without getting bored,” says Crowe, a self-described “finance bird.” And while accounting isn’t very sexy, the rigorous classes at Haas “served me very well,” he adds.

Big deals get the glory, but making sure Chevron has the talent it needs, and instilling the right values in his staff, were more often at center stage. “Young MBAs should remember that a good value system is the underpinning of good results,” he advises.

Similarly, although financial management tools have evolved from 10-key adding machines to powerful computer networks over the course of his career, Crowe emphasizes core values when speaking about technology. “Technology is a valuable tool, but not a replacement for good analysis and common sense. If the wizards on Wall Street had used more common sense, perhaps the recent financial crisis could have been averted or at least its impact more contained.”

Crowe would have liked a well-defined “glide path” to the next phase of his life, but the financial crisis and extreme swings in oil prices dominated the final months of his career. Still, Crowe expects to lend expertise to the board of a nonprofit or two, and perhaps return to Cal as a continuing student.

Crowe is a man with few regrets, but he seems a bit wistful about moving to the sidelines as the oil business moves toward a tumultuous future.

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Steve Crowe, BS 69, MBA 70