Crib Sheet: Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, Not Frodo

Tony Hayward


Ruddy of face, disarming of smile, sharp of mind, and now knee-deep in the dark brown stuff, Tony Hayward is, like his predecessor Lord Browne of Madingley, an internal promotion to the top job at BP. However, where John Browne is what can only be described as an old-fashioned aesthete (interests: 17th- and 18th-Century Italian books, opera, pre-Columbian and Contemporary art), Hayward is a ma-hoosive sports fan, an occasional triathlete who prefers beer to Browne’s Montrachet wine. Conclusion: team player, competitive, combative, collegiate, no-frills, outspoken.

There’s something of the dichotomy about Hayward. He studied geology in Britain’s second city, Birmingham, because of the university football team. A PhD at Edinburgh followed and, had BP not come a-knocking in 1982, he would have headed for the dusty world of academe. All of this, however, is purely academic: BP is facing a $14 billion tab to clean up the mess caused by the oil leak in the Gulf–although the catastrophe happened on a rig staffed and equipped by operator Transocean, BP is liable for spillage.

While most companies might launch into a damage limitation exercise–you know the sort of stuff: footage of seals gamboling in the ocean, man in green safety helmet walking to seal, asking permission to drill for oil in said seal’s toilet, aaaand, cue voiceover (“We at BP are in love with nature–so much so that our diversity officer is a giraffe, blah blah blah”) etc., etc.–Hayward has obviously decreed that the oil giant is to take it on the chin, as an advertising campaign is out of the question. “In our view, the big glossy expressions of regret don’t have a lot of credibility,” said BP spokesman Andrew Gowers.

There’s also something of the Elijah Wood about Hayward. So, in honor of that, please accept Fast Company‘s acrostic to the Lord of the Rigs.

Family: Hayward is the first of seven children. “The eldest gets to do everything, takes care of everyone. It requires you to be responsible quite early.” He’s very family-oriented indeed–wife Maureen, a geophysicist at BP, gave up work to look after their two kids, as she concluded that it would be too difficult to balance work and home life. “My time out from work really revolves round my family.”

Responsibility: “This is not our accident,” stated Hayward in an interview with CBS yesterday, “but it is our responsibility to deal with it, to arrest the leak, to deal with the oil on the surface, to ensure that there is no or minimal environmental damage. And where there are legitimate claims for business interruption, we will make them good.”


Outspoken:In the past, Hayward has described BP’s operational performance as “terrible,” and, when head of BP’s exploration and production, Hayward was frequently critical of the company’s management. “We have a leadership style that is too directive and doesn’t listen sufficiently well. The top of the organization doesn’t listen to what the bottom is saying.” There could be a facetious analogy between the top of the platform and the sea bed, but let’s steer well clear of that.

Duty to BP employees: “I went to the funeral (of an oil worker killed on an operation he was leading) to pay my respects. At the end of the service his mother came up and beat me on the chest. ‘Why did you let it happen?’ she asked. It changed the way I think about safety. Leaders must make the safety of all who work for them their top priority.”

Oil: Yes, an obvious one–although most oil firms now prefer the word energy–although I toyed with Overseas, Ouch, Oh Noes! Oh God, what have we done? and Obama: “D minus: see me after school.” So, rather than explain exactly what oil is, (clue, if you’re playing Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral, it’s the latter) here are some fun facts.

  • The earth still needs it.
  • Unlike sesame, olive, rapeseed and vegetable oil, you can’t cook with it.
  • Most erotic movie line ever is, “Where would you like me to oil you first?” That’s Dorothy to the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Won the gold medal in the “Best Way to Defend Your Castle If You’re Besieged” category at the Medieval Battle Awards 86 years running, between 1296 and 1381.
  • Even though Daniel Day Lewis thinks that the two are compatible, an oil milkshake would taste pretty horrid.
  • It rhymes with Susan Boyle.
  • I Shot J.R.

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S