Mississippian lead candidate to replace Hayward at BP

HATTIESBURG — BP PLC said today that “no final decision” has been made about management changes, which reportedly include the departure of Tony Hayward as chief executive in an effort to mend the company’s image after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

The oil company said its board would meet this evening, a day before it announces earnings for the second quarter.

“BP notes the press speculation over the weekend regarding potential changes to management and the charge for the costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP confirms that no final decision has been made on these matters,” the company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

Shares were up 2.2 percent at 407.6 pence ($6.31) in early trading in London.

British media reported over the weekend that Hayward was negotiating the terms of his departure ahead of its second quarter results announcement on Tuesday. A U.S. government official also said on condition of anonymity that Hayward is on his way out as CEO.

However, the Financial Times reported today that he was likely to stay on for two more months while BP continues work on drilling relief wells, seen as the permanent solution to the leak.

The BP board would have to approve a change in company leadership.

Citing unidentified sources, the BBC and Britain’s Sunday Telegraph said detailed talks regarding Hayward’s future had taken place over the weekend.

Hayward, 53, had become a lightning rod for outrage in the United States about the spill which started on April 20 with an explosion and fire on the Deepwater Horizon rig. Eleven workers died in the disaster.

Hayward had assumed a high-profile role as the face of BP in responding to the spill. His comment that he was eager to resolve the incident “so that I can have my life back” antagonized his critics in the United States.

Robert Dudley, currently heading the effort to clean up the Gulf Coast, figured prominently in speculation about Hayward’s likely successor. Dudley is currently BP’s managing director, and grew up partly in Hattiesburg. He spent 20 years at Amoco Corp., which merged with BP in 1998, and lost out to Hayward on the CEO’s slot three years ago.

He took over from Hayward as the point man on the cleanup in June. Last week, BP said the cost of dealing with the spill had reached nearly $4 billion, but that it was too early to quantify the eventual total cost.

Hayward joined BP in 1982 as a geologist, and currently makes $1.6 million a year as the company’s head, according to their annual report. In 2009, he received a performance bonus of more than 2 million pounds plus other remuneration, bringing his total pay package to over 4 million pounds.

BP is the process of selling assets to raise $10 billion toward a $20 billion fund that will finance the clean-up of the mess in the Gulf. BP announced last week that it had sold properties in the United States, Canada and Egypt to Apache Corp. for $7 billion.

Under pressure from President Barack Obama, BP has also announced that it will pay no more dividends to shareholders this year.

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