Embattled BP Chief Hayward Taking Back Seat in Gulf Response

BP managing director Robert Dudley, an American, takes over BP's spill response.

ByABC News
June 16, 2010, 1:17 PM

June 18, 2010 — -- Embattled energy giant BP appears to be shuffling CEO Tony Hayward out of the spotlight a day after the British native roiled Congress with what critics called "evasive" testimony about the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill from a BP well.

BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said that managing director Robert Dudley will take over Hayward's role in responding to the crisis, according to a report by U.K.-based Sky News.

"It is clear Tony has made remarks that have upset people," said the Swedish-born Svanberg, who himself was the target of criticism after saying BP cares "about the small people" during a public statement apologizing for the spill.

BP is downplaying Svanberg's comments, noting that it had announced earlier this month that Dudley would lead a new organization "to manage the long-term response once the spill is over."

The spill, however, has not ended -- with some 35,000 to 60,000 barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf each day, according to the latest estimates -- yet Svanberg indicated that Dudley is taking over for Hayward now.

Dudley is one of the few Americans in BP's top ranks and received a total of $6.4 million in compensation last year, according to the research firm Equilar. Dudley joined BP through the merger with Amoco, which he had worked for since the late 1970s. Put in charge of tough assignments, Dudley was first charged with managing BP's Russian joint venture earlier this decade, and is now responsible for BP's new unit created to deal with the financial fallout of the oil spill.

BP said that Hayward, 53, will remain the company's CEO. Last year, Hayward's compensation totaled $14.3 million, according to Equilar.

Hayward has been the face of the oil spill and the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which killed 11 men and devastated Gulf shores. He has been excoriated in recent weeks not only for his role as head of the company blamed for the spill, but also for his public statements, including the now-infamous, "I'd like my life back," -- a comment Hayward made while explaining his desire to quickly resolve the disaster.

On Thursday, members of Congress lambasted Hayward during a hearing by the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee for refusing to say whether BP made dangerous and risky decisions leading up to the spill, as critics, including executives at other oil companies, have suggested.

Hayward said he would not draw any conclusions about the accident until investigations into the disaster were completed -- a statement he reiterated several times throughout the hearing, much to the consternation of the congressmen questioning him.

"You're really insulting our intelligence, with all due respect, by not giving us any answers and telling us you have to wait for some investigation," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.

Hayward's life before the spill was an enviable one. Last year, the British native's compensation totaled $14.3 million, according to the research firm Equilar, some of which he's spent on vacations sailing through the tropics and skiing in Vail, Colo., with his wife, a former BP geophysicist, and their two children. He's also an avid sports fan and enjoys watching games of rugby, soccer and cricket.

"I don't work weekends. ... And I take all my holidays," he once told a BP publication.

But Hayward's defenders point out that while the often tie-less CEO has a noticeably laid-back demeanor, he asserted his commitment to safety long before the Gulf spill. In another past interview, Hayward recalled an incident that killed a young BP employee in Venezuela. Hayward attended his funeral, where he was confronted by the young man's mother.

"At the end of the service his mother came up to me and beat me on the chest," he said. "'Why did you let it happen?' she asked. It changed the way I think about safety. Leaders must make the safety of all who work for them their top priority."