Below, The Daily Beast examines Hayward and five other key players and their role in “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.”
Hayward got his job as the oil giant was still dealing with a criminal investigation into disaster—the 2005 explosion of its Texas City refinery, which killed 15. (His predecessor, Lord Browne—who had long groomed Hayward as a successor—abruptly resigned amid unrelated legal trouble and tabloid sex scandals.) “It has obviously been a pretty challenging couple of years at BP,” Hayward told the Houston Chronicle. Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded April 20, Hayward has made himself the face of BP in America, starring in a $50 million ad campaign in which he promises to “make this right.” But some PR experts say Hayward’s public role is a mistake, as his natural British accent is a reminder that BP is not an American company. And the exec has made unforced errors, too, as when he said he wanted to stop the spill so he could “get my life back” and that the company was “not prepared” for the spill. Many are speculating the CEO will lose his job. Hayward testified solo in Thursday's congressional hearings, where he faced lawmakers eager to show voters they’re tough on the oil giant before this fall’s elections. Until now, only BP’s top exec in America, Lamar McKay, has been grilled by Congress—Hayward’s appearance will up the ante.
Robert Dudley, Managing Director
Hayward announced last week that Dudley would lead a separate organization that will manage the company’s long-term cleanup work in the Gulf. It’s a smart choice, The Wall Street Journal says, because Dudley’s career has been marked by one of the fiercest corporate battles in recent history: fighting for control of the joint venture TNK-BP with Russian oligarchs. Dudley’s task is nearly impossible—BP’s reputation rests in tatters and the company faces a backlash from government and all kinds of organizations—but he’s probably the best man for the task. The exec is a soft-spoken American, born in New York and raised in Mississippi, with a rock-solid resume. (One failure: as CEO of BP’s joint Russian venture, though he greatly increased revenue, he lost a shareholder battle and was forced to flee the country when his visa was not renewed.) Dudley, 54, is widely respected within the oil industry and considered a possible successor to Hayward.
Lamar McKay, BP America chief
McKay was tapped to head up BP America just a year ago. Since the oil rig’s explosion, he’s spent some quality time with lawmakers, making several trips to Capitol Hill to face hostile questioning. McKay is controversial: He’s steadfastly insisted that his company would pay "all legitimate claims" resulting from the oil spill (critics bristle at the qualifier “legitimate,” taking it as a sign BP wants to get out of paying what it owes), but that it’s “inappropriate to draw any conclusions before all the facts are known.” He blamed Transocean for not keeping the rig safe; when asked in a hearing whether BP had a financial stake in underestimating the amount of oil spilling into the Gulf, he said “I don’t know.” McKay again graced the hot seat this week, when he testified before the House—next to four executives from rival oil companies. BP’s competitors were eager to distance themselves from the disaster, saying they follow proper safety procedures. In remarks that are unlikely to mollify critics, McKay insisted his company has been " pretty effective" in its response; denied BP was responsible for lowball estimates of the amount of oil spilling, and warned that the American economy depends on domestic energy production, so limiting it would cost many jobs. With the spill predicted to last till August, it seems likely McKay’s days of congressional grilling are not yet behind him.
Carl-Henric Svanberg, Chairman
Born in a tiny village inside the Arctic Circle, Carl-Henric Svanberg gained huge fame in Sweden as a highly successful CEO of Ericsson, yet he remained publicity shy. Svanberg has stuck to that instinct as the company he chairs reels from the largest oil spill ever to hit the U.S., to the point that the Financial Times described him as “lower-profile than an agoraphobic prairie dog.” But like it or not, his face is in the papers this week, thanks to a meeting with Obama Wednesday. Svanberg had a tough time dodging questions from the president as steadfastly as he did those from Sweden’s biggest newspaper, Aftonbladet, which tracked him down last week but mostly extracted variations on “I have nothing to say” from the BP chair. Svanberg has a reputation for steering corporations through tough times: He brought Ericsson back from massive losses by restructuring and cutting costs, including thousands of jobs. The company returned to huge profitability. Despite lacking oil industry experience, BP’s board chose him for the post—which he assumed only in January—because they thought he’d be a good leader who’d drive shareholder value. Svanberg “is comfortable in his own skin and has nothing left to prove,” a board member said. Perhaps he has a bit to prove now.
Iain Conn, Refining and Marketing Chief Executive
If BP does decide to replace CEO Tony Hayward (one bookmaker puts the odds at 3-1), Conn is a contender: known for his loyalty in his 24 years with BP, praising Hayward’s “ extremely robust” leadership, taking on some of Hayward’s duties in London as the CEO got sucked into the crisis in America. Since being appointed to his current role in June 2007, the 47-year-old Scotsman has worked on improving the company’s safety procedures in the wake of the 2005 Texas refinery explosion. That could be the kind of experience BP’s board may look out for if it needs a fresh face to lead the company out of this crisis.
Andy Inglis, Exploration and Production Chief Executive
The 50-year-old currently heads up BP’s exploration and production, the job Hayward had before he was tapped to be CEO. Having been with the company since 1980, Inglis has been seen as a potential next CEO, but he might be tainted by the oil spill happening on his watch. Furthermore, he’s played a key role in pushing for BP’s investment into deepwater drilling technology. Under Inglis’ direction, BP has made major discoveries of oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico, and only in April was the man behind BP’s $7 billion acquisition of fields deep underwater in Brazil and the Caspian Sea.