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The Guardian: Headhunter appointed but BP’s chairman to stay on despite problems

Terry Macalister
Monday October 1, 2007

The BP board has given Sir Peter Sutherland the green light to stay on as chairman until 2009 despite the wave of problems that have led to a management shake-up of the oil group and seriously undermined the performance of its share price.

A top headhunter has been appointed to search for a replacement for Sir Peter. But the company said last night there was no question of him stepping down early, despite some commentators arguing that an early exit would clear the air at BP.

“The board has requested – and Sir Peter Sutherland has agreed – that he will stay as chairman until the annual general meeting in 2009,” said a spokesman for the group, which until recently was Britain’s largest company by market capitalisation.
Shareholders have the ultimate say in the decision as all non-executives have their tenure voted on annually.

Sources close to the group said the new chief executive, Tony Hayward, had a good relationship with Sir Peter and was keen to see him stay to overhaul the group.

Sir Peter fell out with Mr Hayward’s predecessor, John Browne, after the two argued over the former chief executive’s desire to stay on after BP’s traditional retirement age. Lord Browne ended up departing in May after he was found guilty of telling a lie to the high court in an unsuccessful attempt to protect his private life.

Sir Peter has been chairman at BP since 1997 and presided over a huge recovery in the company’s fortunes when Lord Browne embarked on a series of audacious and successful acquisitions of Amoco, Arco and then Burmah Castrol.

But the former EU commissioner has also had to defend BP against a blizzard of criticism over the last two years as the oil group became embroiled in a string of high-profile incidents in the US including the Texas City explosion, Alaska pipeline ruptures and US propane trading, which damaged its reputation.

Anna Mann, a respected headhunter, has been brought in to begin a global sweep of top executives to find a long-term replacement for Sir Peter. His deputy, Sir Ian Prosser, has also been asked to look at internal candidates such as Sir William Castell, a recent BP board appointee who made a name for himself transforming the diagnostics firm Amersham.,,2180670,00.html and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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