NEW YORK (
announced that CEO Tony Hayward is giving up his role as head of day-to-day operations in the Gulf of Mexico.
The importance of the news was a matter of interpretation. BP had already announced weeks ago that it had called back managing director Bob Dudley from Russia to head up its oil-spill response effort in the Gulf.
Hayward's departure from the spill region, then, could simply be the official announcement that the already planned transition has been completed. Dudley not only has experience working with hostile governments; he's also an American.
Additionally, it could be a public-relations move meant to get Hayward out of the headlines -- or a harbinger of Hayward's ultimate removal as CEO of BP. The headline news of BP saying that Hayward is out in the Gulf -- even if not necessarily news -- at least looks good with the U.S. public, some congressman, and the media calling for his head.
Speculation about his resignation (or firing) reached such a fever pitch on Friday after his Congressional testimony that former Prime Minister Tony Blair made the alleged short list of potential replacements.
On Thursday, Hayward did not earn high marks for his evasive answers during his testimony on Capitol Hill, though the legal nature of his non-answers surprised no one.
The Most Hated Man in America -- as Hayward has been called in headlines around the world -- said during his testimony that he speaks with U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, point man for the federal government's oil spill response, at least once, if not twice, a day. In the least, those phone conversations between the government and BP will probably now feature Dudley on the BP end of the line.
If Hayward is to survive as BP CEO, as head of the oil giant he has plenty on his plate to keep him busy as BP tries to survive as a major oil company. BP is reportedly prepping a $5 billion to $10 billion bond deal for as early as next week, and has hired a cadre of high-profile investment bankers to pursue sales of as much as $10 billion in non-core assets.
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