BP’s gaffe-prone former CEO Tony Hayward was recently shown the door, but the oil company’s new head is picking up where his predecessor left off.
Bob Dudley, who succeeded Hayward on Oct. 1, went on the offensive against BP’s critics in an address delivered to a British lobbying organization. Even as he acknowledged the human toll of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Dudley criticized media coverage during the event, complaining at one point that “it frequently felt as if we were the only story on the news, 24/7.” He went on to criticize “a rush to judgment” by observers and “some in our industry.”
“I watched graphic projections of oil swirling around the gulf, around Florida, across and around Bermuda to England - these appeared authoritative and inevitable,” he said in his prepared remarks. “The public fear was everywhere.”
Dudley’s insistence on playing the victim suggests that he failed to learn many of the lessons of his predecessor. Hayward was criticized for complaining that he’d like his life back as 11 oil rig workers lay dead and thousands on the Gulf feared for their livelihood. For Dudley to now complain months after the fact about a few inaccurate computer simulations smacks of the same victim complex that helped contribute to Hayward’s ouster.
To be fair, BP certainly deserves a lot of credit for their post-spill response, including the $20 billion compensation fund they set up in June, of which nearly half a billion has been paid out. And this week they agreed to provide $20 million for enhanced seafood inspection and marketing efforts aimed at rehabilitating the Gulf Coast in the wake of the disaster. Dudley, meanwhile, has promised a new culture of safety at BP under his watch (though those could certainly end up being hollow promises), and acknowledged a need to “earn back the trust” of various parties, from customers to governments to shareholders.