BP's Hayward to step down as CEO

The man who became the face of BP's flailing efforts to contain the massive Gulf oil spill is said to be stepping down as chief executive in October.

Tony Hayward, who became the face of BP's flailing efforts to contain the massive Gulf oil spill, will step down as chief executive in October and be offered a job with the company's joint venture in Russia, a person familiar with the matter said today. An official announcement has not been made by the British company's board, which was meeting on Monday in London to decide Mr Hayward's fate.

It's not yet clear what Mr Hayward's role will be with TNK-BP. BP owns half of the oil firm, which is Russia's third-largest. It was once run by American Bob Dudley, now the favorite to replace Mr Hayward as BP CEO. After Mr Hayward made a series of missteps, including telling reporters he wanted his life back as Gulf residents struggled to cope with the spill, Dudley took over as BP's point man in dealing with it. He was in London meeting with other board members. The environmental protest group Greenpeace said on Tuesday morning it had shut off the flow of petrol at 50 BP service stations in central London, as part of a campaign to persuade the oil giant to move away from its "obsession with high risk, environmentally reckless sources of oil". Greenpeace claimed that its activists had stopped the fuel supply by removing safety switches on the forecourts to prevent them from reopening. They also produced signs that read: "Closed. Moving beyond petroleum." Following the spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the protest is said to be an attempt to urge Mr Dudley, to move away from "his predecessor's obsession with high risk, environmentally reckless sources of oil".

Mr Hayward was called back to London a month ago after a bruising encounter with a US congressional committee and has since kept a low profile. "We're getting to the end of the situation," said David Battersby at Redmayne Bentley Stockbrokers. "To draw a line under it, they need a new chief executive." In New York, BP shares rose almost 5 per cent today as the stock market anticipated a formal announcement about Mr Hayward. Shares of BP PLC rose US$1.82 (Dh6.69), or 4.9 per cent, to $38.68 in midday trading in New York. BP shares closed up 4.6 per cent today in London.

The BP board would have to approve a change in company leadership, and there is persistent speculation that chairman Karl-Henric Svanberg, who moved into the post on Jan. 1, is also likely to lose his job later this year. The one-day board meeting comes a day before BP announces earnings for the second quarter. That report is expected to include preliminary provisions for the cost of the Gulf disaster, with analysts saying that could be as high as $30 billion.

* AP