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Daily Telegraph: Giant of industry stands down as BP chief

By Christopher Hope
Last Updated: 2:05am GMT 13/01/2007

Lord Browne of Madingley, widely regarded as the greatest British businessman of his generation, is standing down as chief executive of BP in the summer.

The 58-year-old was due to remain in charge of the troubled giant until the end of next year but will be replaced by Tony Hayward, BP’s head of exploration and production, on Aug 1.

Lord Browne, who joined BP in 1966 fresh out of university and rose to become to group chief executive in June 1995, said: “It has been a privilege to have had the opportunity to turn BP into an international company at the forefront of the energy industry.”

Lord Browne has regularly been feted as the leading businessman of the past decade.

He was voted Most Admired CEO by Management Today magazine in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002.

However, he has come under pressure in recent months over a catalogue of problems at BP, including deaths in a fire at a US refinery and a major oil spill in Alaska.

Speculation over his job intensified last summer amid rumours of a row with his chairman Peter Sutherland over whether Lord Browne should leave when he is 60 in February 2008. Lord Browne was forced to deny reports of a boardroom rift and said he would remain at the helm until New Year’s Eve 2008, at the end of BP’s centenary year.

His successor was due to take over in 2009 but BP brought forward the date by 18 months after deciding that a shorter handover would be “more appropriate”.

Lord Browne added: “We clearly have important issues still to deal with which I am determined to address. I am pleased that Peter and I have been able to work together to develop a successor in Tony, in whom I have every confidence.”

Mr Sutherland said: “John decided that it would be in the company’s best interest to name a successor now in order to provide an orderly transition.”

He paid tribute to Lord Browne, describing him as “the greatest British businessman of his generation”. “His performance has been extraordinary. His vision, intellect, leadership and skill have been a wonder to behold.”

There were lavish tributes to the man who transformed BP from a staid, state-owned oil company to one of the world’s biggest. Richard Lambert, the director general of the CBI, said: “John Browne is admired around the world. Through his leadership, vision and acumen he built BP into a giant of the industry.”

Jeroen van der Veer, the chief executive of arch-rival Shell, added: “John made a major contribution to the industry and was advanced in his thinking.”

During Lord Browne’s tenure as chief executive he presided over a five-fold increase in the company’s stock market valuation to £104.6 billion.

Like Lord Hanson in Mrs Thatcher’s Britain in the 1980s, Lord Browne was a businessman for the time. His reign coincided with the rise of New Labour and led to BP being dubbed “Blair Petroleum” because of its close links with Tony Blair.

Despite the tributes, the City appeared to applaud the move. BP’s shares closed up slightly as traders welcomed confirmation of Mr Hayward’s appointment.

Lord Browne is now facing a comfortable retirement. Last year he earned £3.3 million and he is entitled to one of Britain’s biggest pension pots of about £1 million a year.
 
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/01/13/nbrowne13.xml

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