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The Guardian: Successor shines as he leaves Sun King’s shadow: merger with Shell? Nothing on the cards right now…

Terry Macalister
Wednesday February 7, 2007

The Sun King is dead: long live the Sun King – or so it seemed yesterday, as Tony Hayward stepped into the limelight at the BP annual results presentation for the first time since it was announced he would replace Lord Browne as chief executive this summer.

Mr Hayward has revealed little of himself up till now, happy to sit in the shadow of his boss and mentor, and kept his utterances as head of exploration to short and pithy comments when required at briefings.

But the former head of exploration and production ditched the shy and nervous persona – which had gone so easily with his youthful appearance – in favour of a character that resembled, well, a bit of his upbeat and self-confident boss, who was dubbed the Sun King in a Financial Times article.

Mr Hayward declined an opportunity to draw a line between himself and the man who will become his predecessor when asked whether charismatic leadership would be shelved on his watch. “You will have to wait and see, my friend,” he declared with a smile. And there was no ducking and diving when asked a straight question about whether he was caught on the hop by Hugo Chávez trying to take back BP oil assets. “I’m never surprised by the things that the president of Venezuela says these days,” said Mr Hayward.

He said safety would get number one priority but BP would continue to “push the envelope” and take risks with new technology as had happened on the troubled Thunder Horse field in the Gulf of Mexico, which is behind schedule.

Amid endless speculation about a merger with Shell or others, there was also no hesitancy. Nothing was on the cards right now, said Mr Hayward, but M&A [mergers and acquisitons] was “simply a tool” that could be used to enhance value when the opportunity arose. He would “focus like a laser” on safety for the first six to eight months but after that the bets were off, he indicated.

And there was enough confidence to admit to areas where production under his watch had been failing to meet expectations. He described the failure to keep the newly launched Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan on stream as “irritating” but said it was neither material nor important “in the grand scheme of things”. Mr Hayward had always impressed financial analysts in private meetings as a suitable replacement for Lord Browne, himself regarded by many as the premier industrialist of his generation despite recent corporate traumas in America.

A glimmer of the self-awareness of the BP boss-to-be also surfaced when he told US staff in a closed meeting subsequently leaked to the public that “we have a leadership style that probably is too directive and doesn’t listen sufficiently well”.

Lord Browne introduced Mr Hayward at the beginning of the annual results conference yesterday as “my friend and successor” and so it looked. There was a compassionate pat on the arm from the younger man as Lord Browne called a halt to a potentially difficult briefing – the first since announcing he was to step down early from a post he had held, until recently, so royally.

Shades of Browne

Tony Hayward’s career bears an uncanny resemblance to that of his boss, Lord Browne. Both joined BP from university – Mr Hayward from Edinburgh, Lord Browne from Cambridge. Both had a series of jobs with BP’s exploration arm. The two have acted as group treasurer and gone on to head exploration and production. Both have one non-executive job outside BP: Mr Hayward at steel group Corus, Lord Browne at investment bank Goldman Sachs. But they differ in at least one respect. In his spare time, Mr Hayward enjoys a triathlon. Lord Browne prefers a cigar.,,2007231,00.html and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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