When he became Chief Executive Officer of BP in 2007, Tony Hayward vowed to focus “laser-like” on safety and reliability. He took the top position form Lord John Browne, a brilliant marketer with a poor safety record. Under Browne the company was rocked by the Texas City refinery explosion, which killed 15 workers, and a spill at a corroded crude pipeline on Alaska&’ North Slope. But Hayward’s determination to “turn things around” at the British company, (and he came close to it), came undone one spring night following the deadly Macondo well explosion, deep inside the Gulf of Mexico. That’s why today BP, confirming what had been expected for months, announced a change in leadership. Hayward’s last day as BP CEO will be on October 1. Taking over as CEO will be American, and Mississippi-native Robert Dudley.
As much as the accident and the string of sloppy decisions that led to the explosion and the environmental disaster, were Hayward?s sub-standard PR skills. Despite being advised by leading PR agencies, Hayward managed to stumble and stumble again: He sloppily tried to blame the disaster on rig-operator Transocean; He told Gulf residents, who were grappling with the long-term consequences of the spill, that he too wanted “his life back….” And when he was? “evacuated” out of the Gulf,? he rushed to his yacht to sail at one of the toniest events on the British social calendar.
Robert Dudley was born in New York, but grew up in Mississippi. That’s important considering that the future of BP lies in its ability to keep and grow its vital U.S. business. He took over Gulf operations for BP, shortly after Hayward was rushed back to the UK.
So far Dudley has steered clear from the gaffes that undid Hayward. On his appointment he said he didn’t underestimate the steep challenges facing BP but highlighted that “the company is financially robust with an enviable portfolio of assets and professional teams that are among the best in the industry.”
This is what we wrote about Dudley in our June Top 10 Players In Green Energy:
Bob Dudley deserves credit for not making any serious mistakes since taking over the response to the Gulf of Mexico oil gusher in late June He performed competently while fielding questions about the spill submitted via YouTube. Moreover, he made a savvy public relations move by doing it on PBS? Newshour, America?s least emotional news outlet. He also has great timing. If BP’s new containment cap is successful, Dudley will get the credit. And when the relief well is finally ready, Dudley will get the credit for that, too. It could all still go terribly, terribly wrong: the relief wells could fail, the containment operation could fail, the Attorney General’s office could announce criminal charges against BP executives, etc. But with a bit of luck, Dudley could go down as “The Man Who Plugged the Hole.” It probably won’t get land him in the chief executive’s office once Hayward is booted, but it?s a pretty good title anyway.
Dudley joined BP via the 1999 merger with Chicago-based oil and gas major Amoco. He made headlines of his own, a couple of years ago, as head of BP’s Russian venture TNK-BP, when he was unceremoniously booted out of the company by a group of Russian shareholder oligarchs unhappy with venture’s shareholder agreement.
As for Hayward he stays on as CEO until October 1. It was rumored that he might and is expected to relocate to Russia to oversee TNK-BP. Reportedly, he is walking away from BP with a? ?930,000 ($1.43 million) yearly pension.
Photos: BP; BP-America Flickr