BP’s Tony Hayward, whose blunders in relation handling the oil spill in the press have created an outcry, is on his way out as CEO, a U.S. government official told the Associated Press.
The senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement had not been made, told the Associated Press he was briefed on the decision by a senior BP official late last week.
It is unclear who will replace Hayward or when. One of the most likely successors is BP Managing Director Bob Dudley, who is currently overseeing the British company’s spill response and would be BP’s first American CEO if he is chosen.
On Sunday, BP PLC spokesman Toby Odone downplayed reports about Hayward’s departure, saying he “remains BP’s chief executive, and he has the confidence of the board and senior management.”
BP’s board would have to approve a change in company leadership. An official announcement could come as early as this week.
Hayward was BP’s most visible figure in the news following the oil spill, and several of his seemingly apathetic comments enraged the public. In late May, Hayward told reporters, “I want my life back,” as Gulf residents struggled with the effects of the spill, causing outrage among the public. Hayward also was criticized for minimizing the environmental effects of the oil spill and questioning the existence of oil plumes that scientists identified. He also incurred the wrath of Congress by admitting he was out of the loop on decisions at the well before the explosion. Dudley began to head up oil spill duties after Hayward was ridiculed for attending a yacht race in the midst of the crisis.
Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser told the Associated Press he thought Hayward’s departure would be good for BP’s image. “I just hope they replace him with somebody who understands the situation, someone who will come down here and see what’s happening on a regular basis, someone who will communicate with us,” he said. “From the beginning it was obvious this guy was not the leader needed in this crisis.”
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D-La.), however, said BP’s attitude and attempts to fix the damage is more important than who is heading up the effort. “BP, from I think everybody’s perspective, made a very bad mistake,” she said. “I think what the world expects from BP is an acknowledgment that something was done wrong. I think BP has a long way to go to gain the trust of the people.”