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Embattled BP boss steps down

By ROLAND JACKSON
July 27, 2010

Tony Haward of BP (AFP)

BP boss Tony Hayward will step down as head of the troubled oil giant, the company said Tuesday, after his heavily criticised handling of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill made him a target of US fury.

The group also revealed in a statement that the devastating spill is forecast to cost it 32.2 billion dollars (24.7 billion euros), helping push it to a major loss of 16.9 billion dollars in the second quarter of 2010.

“BP today announced that, by mutual agreement with the BP board, Tony Hayward is to step down as group chief executive with effect from October 1,” it said, adding he will be nominated as a non-executive director of TNK-BP.

Hayward will be succeeded by fellow executive director Bob Dudley, who is currently in charge of Gulf clean-up operations.

The under-fire boss expressed deep sorrow over the Gulf of Mexico oil spill which was the worst man-made environmental disaster in US history.

“The Gulf of Mexico explosion was a terrible tragedy for which — as the man in charge of BP when it happened — I will always feel a deep responsibility, regardless of where blame is ultimately found to lie,” Hayward said in the statement.

Recent reports had suggested he would go soon, after his attempt to oversee his company’s response to the worst environmental catastrophe in US history turned into a public relations disaster.

“From day one, I decided that I would personally lead BP’s efforts to stem the leak and contain the damage, a logistical operation unprecedented in scale and cost,” Hayward added.

“We have now capped the oil flow and we are doing everything within our power to clean up the spill and to make restitution to everyone with legitimate claims.

“I would like to thank all of the BP people involved in the response and the many thousands of others along the Gulf Coast who have joined us in our efforts.

“I believe the decision I have reached with the board to step down is consistent with the responsibility BP has shown throughout these terrible events.”

He added: “I am sorry that achievement has been overshadowed by the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Under the terms of his contract, Hayward will receive one year’s salary, worth the equivalent of 1.045 million pounds (1.245 million euros, 1.620 million dollars).

BP also said it will look to sell 30 billion dollars of assets over the next 18 months as it seeks to streamline the group’s operations.

“BP announced today that it has taken a pre-tax charge of 32.2-billion-dollars for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, including the 20-billion-dollar escrow compensation fund previously announced,” it added.

“The company will also tell analysts later today that it plans to sell assets for up to 30 billion dollars over the next 18 months, primarily in the upstream business, and selected on the basis that they are worth more to other companies than to BP.

“This portfolio high grading will leave the company with a smaller but higher quality exploration and production business.”

On Hayward’s watch, the oil giant’s image took a battering as repeated efforts to seal the oil gushing into the Gulf foundered following the April rig blast that triggered the disaster.

By the time the oil flow had been stemmed three months later, up to four million barrels (170 million gallons) of crude had escaped into the sea.

The catastrophe has destroyed vital tourism, fishing and oil industries in the five Gulf coast states and left BP facing clean-up and compensation costs running into tens of billions of dollars.

From taking yachting trips at the height of the crisis, to demanding “I’d like my life back” on US television as millions of Gulf coast residents saw their own existences disappear under thick crude, his gaffe-strewn approach only served to deepen American outrage.

Hayward, 53, had already handed over day-to-day management of the crisis in June to Bob Dudley, as criticism of his approach mounted.

His long line of gaffes stretches back to the weeks after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon exploration rig exploded and sank.

He enraged residents of the stricken US Gulf states when he said in an interview with Britain’s Sky News on May 18: “I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest.”

Then on May 30 he was seen as particularly insensitive to the families of 11 US rig workers who died in the initial blast when he said he wanted the disaster over with so he could have his life back.

His pariah status was confirmed when he took part in a family yacht race in June.

Hayward’s departure comes after BP finally stopped oil gushing into the Gulf on Thursday, July 15.

Copyright © 2010 AFP

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