Hayward should say he’ll leave BP post-spill

June 8, 2010

The moment has arrived for Tony Hayward to call time on his career at BP. The UK oil major’s chief executive clearly does not have the credibility with shareholders, regulators or consumers to continue in his role once the Gulf of Mexico crisis is over. BP, and Hayward’s own career prospects, will be better off if he admits this simple truth today.

Hayward has made too many slips since the tragic accident on the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20. At the lower end of the scale, he was unwise to boast of the superlative scale of BP’s response as if to suggest the company was well prepared for the disaster. Worse were comments that he “wanted his life back”, and the suggestion that the spill was a drop in the ocean.

These may have been the intemperate mistakes of an exhausted man. But they have helped turn the world against Hayward, and against BP, and were particularly unfortunate in view of the 11 lives lost after Deepwater exploded. The fact is that BP now admits it was not prepared for the disaster.

As a result, BP shares will be saddled with a “Hayward discount” as long as he is at the helm. President Barack Obama has said he would have sacked Hayward if he had the chance. The president should remember that his ability to interfere in BP’s business is constrained by law, not to mention a duty to respect free markets. But this won’t stop investors worrying about BP being sidelined in the United States.

Having supervised BP’s response effort so far, Hayward is still the best person to finish the job. But that shouldn’t stop him from announcing now that he will offer his resignation as soon as the well is plugged. This would also prove that stopping the flow — rather than protecting his job — is his singular aim.

The board would need to decide whether to accept his resignation when the leak is plugged. However it turns, the bloodletting should not stop there. Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg has also been found wanting during this crisis — to the extent this invisible man is to be found anywhere. Svanberg should have stood with, not behind, his CEO.
Add it all up, and BP has one major task — and two big jobs — to fill this year.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Whilst Hayward’s comments have been unfortunate to say the least, President Obama was the one who allowed deep water drilling to resume without asking some of the most basic questions regarding safety. Most Oil Companies when drilling don’t have adequate preparations for disasters because they exist on “firefighting management mentallity” What America conveniently forgets is that the RIG, WORKFORCE & EQUIPMENT were leased from Occidental, an American Company who were responsible for the Piper Alpha disaster. Prersident Obama is playing Politics,(with a capital P) because this crisis deflects from numerous disasters of the American economy. Sadly BP has yet to get it act together to win back the hearts and minds of the American people. Perhaps Mr Svanberg should stand in front of the cameras while Hayward gets on with the job!

Posted by AlgarvianMan | Report as abusive

BP has a chance for a transformative moment to really move beyond petroleum. It should use the spotlight to motivate its stockholders beyond price and its board of directors beyond personality.

Posted by sk8sonh2o | Report as abusive

If Haywards is “incompetent” who else is at present competent to plug the incessant leakage ?. BP must have hired and must be consulting best of the brains right now and so must be the technical experts in USA. If solution is not emerging with application of so many highly qualified brains…. it would be rude to brand Haywards alone as incompetent ( why not all other top technical guys who are handling this problem ?). Having said that Haywards can salvage his career by offering to quit and manifesting dignity of a professional who is ready to pave way for someone who can be more competent.

With or without Haywards…. million dollar question … can USA quickly identify someone who can plug the venomous hole and save marine and human lives ?

Posted by HitendraMehta | Report as abusive

Is Reuters trying to create news instead of reporting news? Usually a reporting company will hide behind someone who is making the statements they want the world to hear. In this case, it is Reuters itself making the statement.

Besides, Carl-Henric Svanberg is not high enough. The POTUS has backed BP and helped cover their sloppy dealings for the sake of oil. The moment things went awry on the rig, his staff publicly said they were on the problem and had been since the first day. That meant they were labelling themselves responsible.

Only when the problems get too big did they try to shift the responsibility away from themselves. The POTUS should refund all the money BP gave them during the campaign, to give credibility to their words.

Posted by Timuchin | Report as abusive

Hayward/BP not at fault !
We allow them to drill in places that they can not access.
As long as WE allow that, WE are at fault.
So if WE allow them to keep drilling in places where this disaster can repeat itself, don’t cry fowl when it happens again and again !
Remember, only WE can stop it !

Posted by G1abc2b2 | Report as abusive

Hayward will quit, but he’s packing his parachute first. Since nobody is going to let him take a bonus with him, BP is probably siphoning him a bunch of goodies under the radar right now. If it’s found that BP was negligent they will just hand him an early retirement at a luxury fed prison.

Posted by philwoodman | Report as abusive

This lambasting of B.P. & Hayward by Obama and his cohorts is just not fair. BP is an international company and the participants in this disaster were mainly U.S. companies reporting to BP. We all know what they are after which is a cheap takeover of BP having forced the price of the shares down by their actions. Another example of the U.S pretending to have a “special relationship” with U.K but in truth taking any action
whenever possible to take advantage of the U.K.

Posted by Mordwinoff | Report as abusive

I guess everybodies entitled to an opinion even when its wrong and you are. I think Hayward has done an exceptional job. At a time when everyone is screaming about transparency, Hayward has been consistent in his statements and in his and BP’s actions. The public doesn’t see all that is going on and only has the inept and slanted sensational reporting by the MSM to form opinions

Posted by yellowdog | Report as abusive

So glad to see some people with some common sense.

The USAmerican public are over-emotional and hair-trigger-quick to “righteous FURIOUS!!!! indignation,” when we ought to be looking in the mirror. We constantly demand “lower gas prices” and place incredible pressure on our politicians and political system when those gas prices are not low enough.

We all share a piece of the blame here–
Yes, BP should’ve been more prudent in preparing for this calamity. But before the USAmerican public crucifies Tony Hayward, they should look closer to home–to their government. The government regulates and controls access to these oil fields, and it was the USAmerican government who agreed to allow drilling here to begin with. Mr Obama–who has mysteriously been allowed to cast himself as a do-nothing hero in this situation–did nothing to stop this and even encouraged it.

Why? Because the public demand cheaper fuel.

It’s a wreck in the Gulf, and no one denies it. It’s an environmental and human catastrophe in an already-depressed area. But we should be candid–practical–with ourselves at what laid the foundation for this tragedy, and avoid immediately resorting to the all-too-easy temptation of blind, undirected rage.

Posted by kj4212 | Report as abusive

Why is Cameron/Clegg not responding to this?! As an outsider living in the UK, it looks to me the UK is idly sitting by while its assets are being stolen. If Obama intends to seize the assets of BP, I would suggest the UK has every right to declare war on the US and declare this “special relationship” over once and for all.

And, all the twerps in the media and brainless sensationalist environmentalists in US of A should realise that it is only because of their own criminal over-indulgence and over consumption of food and material goods that their energy needs are so high that resulted in the oil demand and dangerous well digging that BP is trying to fulfil.

Posted by Siliaz | Report as abusive

Rubbish! 1) Wasn’t the faulty kit/cement owned and operated by Transocean and Halliburton, two US companies? 2) Wasn’t this kind of situation supposed to be prevented by conditions put in place by the regulator – yes, that’s right, the US regulator, the one who Obama himself accused of long-standing corruption and regulatory capture? 3) Aren’t US regulators supposed to be under the control of US political institutions, in fulfilling such duties which are themselves in turn are supposed to be scrutinised and kept under control by US citizens? 4) If US citizens hadn’t allowed themselves to become so helplessly dependent on fossil fuels that they increasingly rely on dangerous and risky ventures to produce relatively small amounts of the stuff, would this have happened? 5) I don’t see why Hayward should be crucified just because he’s failing to pander sufficiently to the prevailing public hysteria in the US (though if I were he I’d send a brief private message of apology to the families of the dead workers for the ‘wanting my life back’ comment, however understandable it was in the circumstances), 6) Obama could hardly respond in any other way to the question of whether he’d continue to employ Hayward than he did – any other response would have been political suicide. And for my money the interviewer’s belligerent and leading partiality was unprofessional, so if I were his boss he wouldn’t be employed any longer; 7) Hayward doesn’t work for Obama but for BP and its shareholders, which many millions of us in the UK are, directly or indirectly, and we’ll decide whether he goes or not thanks very much; 8) what about Exxon’s massive oil spill in Nigeria? Anyone in the US convulsing about that at the moment? No, I thought not.

Posted by ElleKay | Report as abusive

What nonsense is this notion that Obama does not have the *POWER* to do what he wants to BP?? Since when is the power of the American President limited? All he has to do is say, like his predecessor and almost all Presidents since Reagan, that either National Security, or the “commerce” clause, or the implied “unless they want to” clause to the Constitution gives him the power to do anything he wants.

When you make a mockery of Law for causes you like (Iraq, Afghanistan, secret “courts”, “two party system”, etc. etc. etc.), you cannot expect the rules (there are none) to protect you when you are on the receiving end. Listen up “Tea Party” types.

The President can simply summarily take BP’s lease holdings in USA territory and tell them to sue the US government. Maybe in a special, secret “court”. No biggie compared to the last 50 years.

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive

The ongoing ecological catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico coupled with the ongoing global economic meltdown have convinced me the public needs to be unforgiving with the executives at the helms of the firms that are involved in these global disasters. For the record, something is very wrong in our world today when synthetic man-made tragedies keep hitting society one after the other. Society has no choice but to hold executives responsible for their decisions, good and bad. More at:

http://wjmc.blogspot.com/2010/06/we-peop le-need-to-know-what-is.html

When generals lose thousands of troops in battle, they are replaced with prejudice. Likewise, when CEO’s lose billions of dollars and make decisions that lead to incalculable human and wildlife suffering, then heads must roll.

The CEO of BP shold probably be arrested and interrogated in detail by the FBI about every word he spoke and every decision he made over the past 10 years. Anyone else involved in causing this ecological disaster should be likewise be arrested and interrogated for many months in order to get to the bottom of how BP operates, how BP makes decisions, how BP studies risk, and how BP indeavors to protect the best interests of the US, her citizens, and the world-at-large. To say, “we at BP produce oil” is not near sufficient after what has happened. The public needs to ensure the investigation of BP is thorough, apolitical, deep, and unrelenting in its search for the full truth about what happened at BP.

As the investigation procedes, I would expect to see millions of pages of data, reports, analysis, transcripts, emails, and all other documents and records collected released to the public so that society can study this disaster as a tragic historical event. The failure at BP must be studied and fully understood in order that this kind of thing never happens again. We as a society must demand that the facts in full are disclosed in the coming years as expert investigators and researchers spend the coming decades collecting data and studying what happened at BP and in our government that lead to this happening.

As far as I am concerned, the scale of the historical interest produced by this ecological catastrophe should rival the historical record produced in the aftermath of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. It goes without saying that BP should be closed and placed into receivership by the government as part of that effort.

The government does not get a free pass either. Whatever mistakes the government made must be fixed. If constitutional amendments are required to preclude this kind of thing from happening again, then so be it. Our government must begin to take seriously the threat of ecological and economic catastrophe at the hands of humans, and laws and regulatory agencies need to energized or created to ensure enterprise does not destroy America and our way of life. The threat is very real in my mind, and the threat is ourselves.

Until society and the world begins to hold governments and leaders personally responsible for their mistakes, oversights, and malfeasances, these kinds of things will continue to haunt our world until we destroy ourselves along the way. We the people need to know what is going on…

Posted by mckibbinusa | Report as abusive

From the perspective of a Scot in the city Tony Hayward started his career with BP it seems President Obama has lost his sense of fair play and allowed politicking to surplant intellect. Many firms and many disciplines come together to design, construct and operate a rig, why castigate Tony Hayward, a man well regarded in the oil industry? Never forget a tragedy happened and men died. Sadly this can happen when an industry is working at the limits of technology to get more oil to feed the world, and in particular the US, appetite for that product. An appetite Obama has done little to reduce.

Posted by Rander | Report as abusive

Why doesn’t anyone jump on the Coast Guard? They sunk the damn platform which is what caused the pipe to break and allow the gusher to spew into the ocean… Who could possibly think that sea-water can fight an oil fire? Ridiculous!!

Posted by CDNrebel | Report as abusive

Hello… Are we not all forgetting something here? Where are your priorities? We should all be concentrating on plugging that hole, saving our wildlife, saving our coastlines, cleaning up all that oil on top of and in the oceans (from the dispersants) and worry about who is at fault later. Have you seen all the animals, fish, and birds that are dying because of this disaster? Who gives a hoot if Hayward quits or how much money he gets ..etc.. we have more important issues like stopping the oil flow into the Gulf…Remember …as we continue to destroy our environment all around the world… we are also destroying ourselves… we are just part of that big food chain and when our support (Air, Water, Food, Fish, etc) are all gone or polluted beyond repair… so will we be gone… Man is so so stupid…

Posted by cmbxuxa | Report as abusive

Dear AlgarvianMan, the drilling in question here started long before Obama opened his big mouth and sided with big corporations instead of pushing alternate energy as he should have. The reason BP wasn’t prepared was I agree the “fire fighting mentality”. However, this mentality is due to corporate charters which overtly place “maximizing shareholder value” as the main goal and place maximizing executive compensation and power as the covert goal. That’s why regulation would have been handy, but most all corporate regulation has been gradually neutered starting with R. Reagan. The assertion that Obama is “playing politics” is totally absurd, delusional, and irrational since it is Obama who has egg all over his face for backing the drilling. Please buy a few books on rational thinking. Then read them.

Posted by colonelP | Report as abusive

CDNrebel – are you living in some sort of alternate universe. What do you mean the Coast Guard sank the drilling platform. They had nothing to do with the explosions and the damages that caused the eventual sinking. Where do you get you (non) facts? That sounds like something the wacky ex-governor of Alaska would say. Way out in left field with no basis in reality.

Posted by Robert76 | Report as abusive

Hurrah for Colonel P…for Packenham by any chance?

The US is on shaky ground when it comes to oil-slicks: the President seems more interested in a display of cojones than cracking down on globalist shareholder value OCD. “I did it for the shareholders” has become our generation’s “I was only obeying orders”.
http://nbyslog.blogspot.com/2010/06/pres ident-obama-is-he-jerk.html

Posted by nbywardslog | Report as abusive

BP … British?

It’s a public company, and some 35% of it is owned by Americans.

BP employs tens of thousands of Americans.

BP is obviously qualified to drill oil and gas wells and operate them.

Why Obama is wasting time threatening BP is just mind boggling.

Posted by Starkstruck | Report as abusive

I saw on TV this morning that Rahm Emanuel, the Presidents Chief of Staff, lived in an apartment for a year, paid for by BP. If that’s true, and if it’s also true that President Obama is the single largest recipient of BP political donations, no matter what we’re told and see on the public stage, wouldn’t that be improper? I suppose it’s not any more important than rigging elections. Wouldn’t it be nice if a news organization had the balls to expose some of these shenanigans so the public would get a glimmer of the corruption that’s going on?

Posted by Avatar666 | Report as abusive

How many Journalists and commenters have the slightest clue what they are writing about.

was lucky enough to count BP as one of my clients – as well as Conoco, Philips Petroleum, Amoco, Schlumberger & Shell.

BP stood out from the rest as having the most professional culture & that quality does not change overnight.

Obama is a “little man” who does not seem to have a clue how to govern.

There is little evidence that he has put his shoulder to the wheel to resolve this accident – unlike Margaret Thatcher following the previous worst offshore rig disaster (involving an American company) in my backyard.

Hayward should not consider stepping down.

Posted by investeast1 | Report as abusive

OK BP is guilty of a crime against environment and for the 2nd time in five years after the Texas blast. But the company is sued by a state much more eco-terrorist than it is. That is the mainstream in Europe. There is no shame to be British, drilling oil because UK and Europe as a whole are much more liable of their industrial activity than the USA. Not only is GB the conceiver the builder and defensor of the Kyoto Protocol but also the country of Marshall the classical theorist of the environmental cost. That’s why they are many ways of a counter attack. Why this accident doesn’t lead the US to enter the KP? Why are they going to delay it again as it is evident that the pollution in humanmade ans that is for the air like for the sea? Is n’t it much more important for our common futur than the resign of Hayward or the price of the BP shares which benefits to the challengers?

Posted by meleze | Report as abusive

Hayward, the board and top executives at BP, Transocean, the appropriate govt agencies and Halliburton(at least) should be arrested and when found guilty: executed.

Have we forgotten that their quest for profit at any cost has meant the death of the Gulf of Mejico, not to mention the death of 11 people.

It is time we stopped allowing big corporations to get away with their crimes.

Posted by Kosh | Report as abusive