Exxon kills the ‘God pod,’ a 20,000-square-foot palace for its C-suite that excluded most staff
Gods, kings, and oil tycoons—all of them must fall from their excessive perch sooner or later or one other, or no less than downsize to much less palatial grounds. Very like Marie Antoinette, ExxonMobil executives are transferring home, leaving their Dallas-area residence of 1 / 4 century, the affectionately nicknamed “God pod,” they usually’re forsaking a downright Versailles-ian palace as well. The deities of Huge Oil’s Twentieth-century heyday are coming right down to earth—form of.
The transfer away from the God Pod was first disclosed again in January 2022, when Exxon introduced it might be transferring from Dallas to Houston in a drive to chop prices and streamline departments. The corporate stated on the time that this may save $6 billion by 2023, funding 40% of its dividend payouts. It slimmed down to only three enterprise strains: upstream, product options, and low-carbon efforts.
In its impending transfer to Houston, Exxon goes a bit much less ham on its heavenly therapy of higher-ups. The God pod is the fittingly extreme title for the extreme govt suites at Exxon. As beforehand reported in Columbia Journalism professor Steve Coll’s enterprise traditional Non-public Empire and, extra lately, the Wall Road Journal, the God pod is roughly 20,000 sq. toes and solely accessible to a small handful ofthe very prime executives (and their assistants), together with an assortment of personal cooks and lots of positive sculptures and work.
Regardless of raking in report earnings in 2022, individuals aware of the matter instructed the Journal that the brand new workplace is in step with latest guarantees to undertake a leaner give attention to spending and the brand new pod guarantees to be extra economical, if perhaps solely barely. Maybe the God Pod’s aesthetic of decadence appears to be like a bit old style, and even cheesy, in an age of inflation and inexperienced transition, though the transition to Houston has been within the works for a few years. The Houston campus, technically positioned in Spring, Texas, was opened again in 2014 by former CEO Rex Tillerson, holder of the “Order of Friendship” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia after which, briefly, secretary of state within the Trump White Home. A consultant from Exxon instructed Fortune that they had nothing so as to add to the story.
“Nearer collaboration and the brand new streamlined enterprise mannequin will allow the corporate to develop shareholder worth and place ExxonMobil for achievement by means of the vitality transition,” chief govt officer Darren Woods stated in a press release to Bloomberg final 12 months.
However what a pod they’re forsaking. Exxon decked out its residence of 1 / 4 century with French limestone and staircases imported from Africa, peppering the within with work and sculptures. If one was to attempt to reproduce the palace, it might doubtless price $1,000 per sq. foot, Doug Agarwal, founder and president of Texas-based real-estate agency CCI, tells the Journal, making your complete largely empty grounds doubtless price round $20 million.
The brand new digs aren’t by any means one thing to scoff at, although just a few adjustments are being made; the Journal notes that there shall be no designated chef, however the non-public elevators will stay. And the executives received’t be tons of of miles away from staff anymore—now they’ll simply be two flooring up, in the identical campus spanning tons of of acres. When it introduced the transfer, in 2022, the Better Houston Partnership touted the truth that town would path solely New York and Chicago in Fortune 500 headquarters, with 25 in all.
Staff at Exxon’s headquarters have been anticipated to be in workplace 5 days every week since 2021, in line with Bloomberg, although a consultant instructed Fortune final 12 months that office flexibility applications have been in place. In an effort to get staff to return to workplace, CEOs have homed in on the flexibility to induce collaboration, additionally trying to monitor productiveness like they might within the good ole days. However pushing for an workplace return attributable to larger teamwork may be troublesome when staff can’t even rub shoulders with their executives. With a surface-level extra trendy aesthetic in Exxon’s new workplace, its utilization may be much less antiquated as nicely, as sources inform the Journal that the workplace can have extra open house to stir collaboration.
“Senior world administration is like divinity: Only a few have entry,” an worker in Exxon’s fuels and lubricants division instructed Enterprise Insider in 2021.
After a troublesome 2020 for Huge Oil, buyers are pressuring executives to chop prices. The brand new 12 months marked a historic excessive for Exxon and the business as an entire, as the corporate introduced a report $56 billion revenue in 2022. Even in a time of excessive inflation, the place firms are reducing pandemic-era perks to avoid wasting prices but in addition simply appear to be the previous period of a hardass boss, Exxon’s pockets nonetheless overflows.
The change from the God pod is probably going partially an optics transfer as nicely. Whereas main oil producers are trying what critics declare is “greenwashing” as criticism grows over their environmental impression, fossil-fuel demand continues to be excessive sufficient that some firms have dropped their performative activism altogether; the New York Occasions reviews that Exxon ended its undertaking in making environmentally pleasant fuels made by algae.
As local weather change intensifies, Individuals begin to publicly flip towards environmentally pleasant choices; a 69% majority assist changing into carbon-neutral by 2020, in line with Pew. Many blame firms, as two-thirds of respondents say that companies aren’t doing sufficient to deal with local weather change. As Huge Oil appears to be like worse throughout an period of seen environmental change, such lavishness on the prime isn’t actually look. Cashing in on carbon emissions and exacerbating local weather change are issues that leaders of each celebration are completely happy to show a blind eye to, however perhaps it’s finest to not allow them to eat cake too.