I’m not a BP fan. In fact, being British, it’s been a tad embarrassing BP dealt with the Gulf Oil spill as badly as they did. As CEO, Tony Hayward hasn’t particularly outshone himself either, in fact he’s made some mistakes that made a public relations professional like myself wince. However, I’m of the mind that, when Tony Hayward resigns as BP CEO, he deserves a multi-million dollar package and here’s why.
Tony Hayward Is BP and America’s Scapegoat – Don’t fool yourself Tony Hayward is the big bad wolf here. He’s no more at fault than any other high-level BP employee who wasn’t actually on the oil rig when the oil rig exploded. The oil spill itself was caused by drilling by Transocean Ltd, a Swiss offshore drilling contractor, but they got off almost scot-free after the US government decided, under American law, BP was responsible as they leased the rig, drew up plans for the well and were the owners of the oil. A decision that also likely had something to do with the payout as BP has much more money to go after than does Transocean Ltd.
Once the US government had decided who to blame, politically the Obama Administration who was getting a lot of heat, had to find a scapegoat. They immediately went after BP full force and Tony Hayward was their easy scapegoat. As CEO of BP, Hayward was the ‘public face of the company’ so, when the US government and American news media were trying to find someone to be accountable, enter Hayward. Front and center. Whether he liked it or not. For that alone, Tony Hayward deserves a multi-million dollar (pound) payout.
Tony Hayward’s Public Relations Disaster – Like many multi-national companies, BP didn’t seem to understand if you admit responsibility upfront then try to fix the problem, the public will generally support you more. Dodging and weaving and trying to avoid full responsibility however was BP’s way of playing the game and Tony Hayward as their ‘public relations guy’ was the one who followed instructions. As CEO of BP, sure, Hayward had some authority but his authority came from his Board of Directors who, obviously, were telling him what to say. So to blame Tony Hayward for BP’s refusal to admit responsibility is no more rational than blaming me. I’ve been a high-level spokesperson for an organization and can guarantee, even if you disagree 100% with what your board is telling you to say, that’s what you say unless you want to lose your job.
Not particularly good in public relations, Hayward went on to make a few comments that put people’s backs up Including the doozie “I’m sorry. We’re sorry for the massive disruption it’s caused their lives. There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back“. Badly spoken for sure. But, as a colloquialism used by millions of people around the world, it wasn’t exactly the hangable offense many in the US made it out to be.
Besides, I could definitely empathize with Hayward. Being forced to answer questions over and over again about the Gulf Oil spill when, in reality, until the drilling company and BP engineers figured out how to fix the leak, Hayward didn’t know much more than the rest of us.
Damage To Tony Hayward’s Reputation – The main reasons I believe BP should pay Tony Hayward a multi-million dollar payout, plus the $900,000 per year pension it’s been announced he’ll be getting, is his long tenure with BP and the damage to his reputation.
From a normal British working class family, Tony Hayward worked his way up in BP from his beginnings as rig geologist in 1982 through various administrative jobs until he ended up as BP CEO three years ago. His entire working life of 28 years has been tied up in BP and, now BP is suffering from a massive public relations scandal, while all the other board members and executives are holding tightly onto their jobs, Tony Hayward is the one being blamed for BPs problems. BP itself did little to shield Hayward from the barrage of hatred and abuse he got in the American media and then, once it was obvious somebody had to go, Hayward was the man they chose.
Unfortunately America, in the simplistic way it often views things, chose Tony Hayward as their scapegoat and everyone jumped on the bandwagon. With massive damage to his reputation, some earned and some definitely not, as well as being the one person having to take responsibility for the BP Gulf Oil spill, in my mind Tony Hayward deserves every penny of the multi-million pound (dollar) payout BP will be giving him and possibly more.
Now, BP has decided due to being vilified in the American media only an American can save the day so, in place of Tony Hayward, BP’s new CEO will be American Robert Dudley. It will be interesting to see how long the US government and American media can keep their claws out of him, before he’s subjected to the same animosity Tony Hayward suffered. Or, maybe he won’t. He’s American, so not as easy a target as someone from another country as, in today’s climate in America, many Americans believe foreigners are responsible for all their problems.
Meanwhile, it looks like Tony Hayward will be able to ‘get his life back’ and, frankly, will likely be breathing a sigh of relief too. If BBC reports are correct, Hayward will still be working for BP but for TNK BP, a Russian joint venture with BP, and in an administrative position.
Gulf of Mexico Oil spill: Transocean silent at BP bears the brunt of anger – The Telegraph
Robert Dudley expected to take over at BP for Tony Hayward – Kansas City.com