July 21, 2010 / 2:16 AM / in 7 years

BP's Hayward to step down within 10 weeks: report

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<p>BP CEO Tony Hayward delivers his opening statement about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 17, 2010. Picture taken June 17, 2010.Larry Downing/Files</p>

LONDON (Reuters) - BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward is to step down within the next 10 weeks, The Times reported on Wednesday.

Hayward has been under pressure to resign as the British-based company battles to contain an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

There is a growing expectation that Hayward would announce his departure in late August or September, the Times said, citing sources close to the company.

Hayward would have to step down so that BP could shore up its defenses against a potential buyout threat by ExxonMobil or Royal Dutch Shell, the newspaper cited a person close to the matter as saying.

Robert Dudley, chief of BP's Gulf Coast restoration efforts, is viewed as the front-runner to replace Hayward, The Times said.

BP officials were not immediately available for comment.

BP said last month that Hayward, criticized for his response to the disaster that started on April 20, was still CEO with no change under discussion.

BP said on Tuesday it reached a $7 billion deal with Apache Corp, a large part of its planned sale of $10 billion in assets to pay for the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Dhara Ranasinghe

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