BP is to hive off its Gulf of Mexico oil spill operation to a separate in-house business to be run by an American in a bid to isolate the “toxic” side of the company and dilute some of the anti-British feeling aimed at chief executive Tony Hayward, the company said today.
The surprise announcement was made during a teleconference with City and Wall Street analysts in which Hayward attempted to shrug off the personal criticism saying words “could not break his bones”.
BP has faced mounting anger in the US over the accident on 20 April when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up and sank with the loss of 11 oil workers’ lives.
The Macondo well continues to spew out oil although a containment cap was placed on top of the leak today. Hayward said it would take a further 48 hours to know whether it was successful.
Responsibility for the leaking well and the clean-up strategy will placed in the hands of Bob Dudley, one of the company’s most able directors.
Dudley, a US citizen, has been looking for a suitable role in the company since he was thrown out of Moscow in a battle with the Russian shareholders of the TNK-BP joint venture in the middle of 2008.
Hayward said the clean-up business would be run separately by Dudley with his own staff but the finances and budget would come from the main BP group. The BP chief executive said the purpose of the split was to allow Dudley to concentrate on the Gulf problem while he and other directors were not distracted from keeping the main business on track.