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Bloomberg: BP’s Browne Steps Down as Chief, Replaced by Hayward (Update1)

By Stephen Voss

May 1 (Bloomberg) — BP Plc, Europe’s second-biggest oil company, said John Browne stepped down as chief executive officer after he lost a legal battle against a U.K. newspaper over the publication of details about his personal life.

Tony Hayward, who was scheduled to replace Browne as CEO as of Aug. 1, takes over the position with immediate effect, London-based BP said today in a statement distributed by the Regulatory News Service.

The decision is a further blow for BP, whose reputation has suffered from a series of missteps including a Texas refinery blast in March 2005 that killed 15 workers and oil leaks last year from corroded pipelines in Alaska.

Britain’s highest court refused to hear Browne’s bid for an order to prohibit the Mail on Sunday from printing the story, which centers on the executive’s involvement with a Canadian named Jeff Chevalier. Two lower courts had already rejected his case. Chevalier claimed Browne supported him with BP “resources and manpower,” the ruling said.

“In my 41 years with BP I have kept my private life separate from my business life,” Browne said in the statement. “These allegations are full of misleading and erroneous claims. In particular, I deny categorically any allegations of improper conduct relating to BP.”

BP’s first-quarter net income dropped 17 percent from a year earlier because of lower energy prices and a seventh consecutive quarter of year-on-year production declines, the company said April 24.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Voss in London at [email protected]
Last Updated: May 1, 2007 11:05 EDT

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