Tony Hayward, ‘most hated man in America’, seeks a second chance

Five years after Gulf of Mexico disaster, the former BP boss is causing controversy

 Tony Hayward: “I’m 58 years old and I want a slightly less full-on life.” Photograph: Reuters

Tony Hayward: “I’m 58 years old and I want a slightly less full-on life.” Photograph: Reuters

 

Five years after being forced out of BP in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Tony Hayward is still causing controversy – and he still wants his life back.

It was that phrase, uttered at the height of the furore over the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, that saw Hayward branded “the most hated man in America” .

Eleven people lost their lives in the disaster and the BP boss’s insensitive words caused outrage not only in the US but around the world.

Taking a day off to go sailing in the Solent as oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico certainly didn’t help either.

Some things don’t change, it seems, and a now-rehabilitated Hayward is still thinking about his life.

As he flouted corporate governance conventions this week by swapping his job as chief executive of the loss-making Kurdistan oil producer Genel Energy for the role of chairman, Hayward mused on his future.

He is also chairman of the FTSE 100 commodities group Glencore International, and has been under pressure to take a less hands-on role at Genel in order to concentrate on his full-time role at the commodities giant.

But, said Hayward, his move to the chairman’s office at Genel had nothing to do with Glencore. “This is about my life, what I want to do,” he told the Financial Times. “I’m 58 years old and I want a slightly less full-on life.”

The man whose life at Genel will become more full-on as he steps up to take over from Hayward is Murat Özgül, who ran Genel’s operations in Turkey and Kurdistan. But, as with Hayward’s switch from chief executive to chairman, the appointment of Özgül has raised eyebrows in the City.

Five years ago, a couple of months before the Deepwater disaster, Özgül was dealing with his own problems: a £100,000 penalty from the City watchdog, the Financial Services Authority, for insider trading.

He had bought shares in Heritage Oil, which was a joint venture partner with Genel. The two companies were also in merger talks, and the share purchase was made on the back of test results that revealed a large oil find in Iraq. Two days later the discovery was announced to the stock market, sending Heritage shares surging 25 per cent. Özgül sold his shares at a profit the same day.

In a statement accompanying the announcement of Özgül’s appointment, Genel said the FSA had acknowledged that he “did not set out to commit market abuse”.

Hayward, meanwhile, said his successor was “well qualified” to progress the development of Genel’s operations and looked forward to “working closely with him on delivering our strategic plans”.

Evasion strategies

Lord GreenHSBC

Since the scandal erupted this year, Green has managed to avoid the aggressive public grillings faced by his successors at HSBC, Stuart Gulliver and Douglas Flint. In an uncomfortable session at the treasury select committee in the Commons a few months ago, both men faced calls to quit amid hostile questioning from MPs.

Despite numerous attempts by the media to question Green on his part in the bank’s behaviour – including being confronted by a Channel 4 News reporter during a lecture on banking ethics at a church in the City of London – the Tory peer and ordained Church of England minister had managed to avoid similar scrutiny.

But yesterday, in his first appearance since leaving the government as trade minister in 2013, he was called to the House of Lords to give evidence to its economic affairs committee at a one-off session on the culture of banking.

Grillings from House of Lords committees tend to be rather more restrained affairs than those in the Commons, and Green, who was appearing alongside former Lloyds Bank chairman Sir Win Bischoff, turned in a relaxed performance.

He said neither he nor other board members had been aware of the problems at the Swiss banking business but admitted that HSBC should have “drilled into the detail” much earlier than it did.

“We didn’t get everything right,” he said.

Green was also asked about the excessive pay in the banking sector, something he said could not be morally justified, but which was enforced on the industry by the “realities of the international market”. HSBC risked losing top people if they were not paid enough, but, Green told the committee, “it certainly kept me awake” .

Fiona Walsh is business editor of theguardian.com

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