Hayward should say he’ll leave BP post-spill
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.