Set­ting sail? u.S. of­fi­cial says Hay­ward on way out

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ta­mara Lush and Harry We­ber

NEW OR­LEANS — It looks like Tony Hay­ward will get his life back af­ter all.

The gaffe-prone Brit is on his way out as CEO of oil gi­ant BP, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior U.S. govern­ment of­fi­cial. An an­nounce­ment could come by sun­down to­day about the fate of the man who en­raged scores of frus­trated Gulf res­i­dents by in­fa­mously declar­ing, “I’d like my life back,” in May.

The U.S. of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause an an­nounce­ment had not been made, was briefed on the de­ci­sion by a se­nior BP of­fi­cial late last week.

Ac­cord­ing to The New York Times, BP Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Bob Dud­ley is ex­pected to suc­ceed Hay­ward and would be BP’s first Amer­i­can CEO. Dud­ley is over­see­ing the Bri­tish com­pany’s re­sponse af­ter the April 20 oil rig ex­plo­sion, which killed 11 work­ers and set off the mas­sive spill in the Gulf of Mex­ico. He took the lead af­ter Hay­ward was pil­lo­ried for at­tend­ing a yacht

Con­tin­ued from A race amid the cri­sis.

Hay­ward, 53, was BP’s most vis­i­ble fig­ure for weeks af­ter the spill. But he faded from the scene af­ter sev­eral tonedeaf com­ments made peo­ple an­grier at the com­pany than they had been.

He min­i­mized the en­vi­ron­men­tal ef­fects of the spill, ques­tioned the ex­is­tence of oil plumes iden­ti­fied by sci­en­tists and en­raged mem­bers of Congress when he said he was out of the loop on de­ci­sions at the well be­fore the ex­plo­sion. An­other goof: In mid-June, as live video showed oil gush­ing into the Gulf, Hay­ward went home to Eng­land — and at­tended the yacht race.

“He seems like a pretty self­ab­sorbed per­son, so I’m not sur­prised to hear he would walk away in the mid­dle of all this,” said Gulf res­i­dent Pa­trick Shay, 43, who sat on a porch swing at his cot­tage in Grand Isle, La., on Sun­day. His front yard is filled with small, white crosses, each bear­ing the name of sea life or ways of life the oil spill has killed. “If any­thing, it will help. They need to get him out of the way and get this cleaned up.”

A change in lead­er­ship will not change the mam­moth tasks ahead for BP, from stop­ping the off­shore oil gusher for good to clean­ing up the mil­lions of gal­lons that have al­ready leaked to pay­ing bil­lions in claims — all while de­fend­ing its stock price and re­pair­ing its bat­tered rep­u­ta­tion.

A tem­po­rary plug has stopped oil from gush­ing for more than a week, but be­fore that, the busted well had spewed from 94 mil­lion to 184 mil­lion gal­lons into the Gulf.

Billy Nungesser, pres­i­dent BP CEO Tony Hay­ward has en­raged res­i­dents and politi­cians alike with his pub­lic gaffes. He tes­ti­fied on Capi­tol Hill last month about BP’s role in the April ex­plo­sion and re­sult­ing spill. of Louisiana’s Plaque­m­ines Parish, said Hay­ward’s de­par­ture will 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.”

But other Gulf res­i­dents shrugged upon hear­ing the news. The oil, they said, has al­ready done its dam­age.

“It doesn’t mat­ter,” said Chris Foss, a 39-year-old boat cap­tain from Port Sul­phur. “What­ever hap­pens with the cor­po­rate dudes is ir­rel­e­vant. The only thing that mat­ters is what they are go­ing to do about this mess.”

David Duet, 62, of LaRose, La., filled his ice chest at the gro­cery store in Grand Isle, where he brings his camper ev­ery week­end de­spite the oil.

“I don’t think he’s di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for the spill, but he still had to an­swer for it,” said Duet, who worked on oil rigs for more than 22 years. “I can un­der­stand the time it took to cap it. I know how hard things are out there.”

U.S. Sen. Mary Lan­drieu, DLa., said BP’s at­ti­tude about mak­ing things right is more im­por­tant than who is run­ning it.

“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.”

Hay­ward “be­came a sacri­fi­cial lamb in a po­lit­i­cally charged world,” said Fadel Gheit, a se­nior an­a­lyst at in­vest­ment firm Op­pen­heimer & Co.

Gheit said Dud­ley would be well-suited to take over, de­scrib­ing him as even-tem­pered and a good del­e­ga­tor. But he added, “I’m not sure if re­mov­ing Tony Hay­ward is go­ing to throw BP’s prob­lems away.”

Tony Hay­ward will step aside, let BP Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Bob Dud­ley take charge, sources say.

Haraz N. Ghanbari

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