LONDON (Reuters) - Former BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward felt “demonized and vilified” over the Deepwater Horizon disaster. A year later, he is landing new senior roles with some of the biggest names in natural resources.
Hayward was dubbed “the most hated — and most clueless — man in America” by New York’s top-selling tabloid the Daily News following the April 20, 2010 blast, which killed 11 men and unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. history.
Public-relations gaffes such as saying he wanted his “life back” only stoked U.S. public and political anger, while BP was forced to take a $41 billion charge to cover the accident’s costs, and embark on a huge program of sell-offs.
But six months after stepping down as CEO, Hayward, 53, is in demand for his decades of oil-industry experience, his technical and management knowledge, and his contact book.
On Thursday Glencore, the commodity trader, said Hayward would serve as its “senior independent director” as it launched a flotation that could raise $12 billion. Veteran Hong Kong businessman Simon Murray will be chairman.
Iain Armstrong, an oil analyst at Brewin Dolphin in London, said Hayward was a “very good, hands-on engineer” with a collegiate management style and a “very good black book” of industry contacts.
“It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that he bounced back as quickly as he did,” Amstrong said.
According to several sources close to the people in the discussions, Hayward is also talking to Nathaniel Rothschild, the financier, about an energy-focused follow-up to Rothschild’s Vallar acquisition vehicle. The sources declined to be identified because the details remain private.
And in February the Sunday Times said Hayward was in talks with Abu Dhabi about a new oil company. Speaking to Reuters in Abu Dhabi this month, however, Hayward said he was “just here to visit friends” and denied starting an investment fund.
Although better known in mining, Glencore is among the world’s top oil suppliers outside the big integrated oil companies such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
Hayward’s role at Glencore as senior independent director — now standard on British boards — means he evaluates the chairman, helps search for a replacement when needed and can be an alternative contact for restive shareholders.
A BP lifer, Hayward joined in 1982 after completing a doctorate in geology. He rose to head of exploration and production and succeeded John Browne as chief executive in 2007.
The approachable Hayward struck a contrast with the statesman-like, imperious Browne, nicknamed the “Sun King.” Browne was on the shortlist of candidates to become Glencore chairman. The role eventually went to Hong Kong businessman Simon Murray.
BP’s annual shareholder meeting on Thursday was disrupted by campaigners angered by BP’s role in the Gulf of Mexico disaster. Still, some small investors expressed sympathy for Hayward.
Joseph Lampel, a professor of strategy at London’s Cass Business school, said company bosses were finding it easier to bounce back after presiding over poor corporate performance.
“It’s becoming less and less of a problem, making a comeback. It used to be, 20 or 30 years, scandals would really finish CEOs,” Lampel said, adding that boards might now be more sophisticated at judging what lies beyond a CEO’s control.
But a more negative explanation would be that in becoming a CEO, “there’s a curious way in which you are consecrated into a club,” opening the door to future senior appointments, he added.
Hayward’s other forthcoming role, in the sequel to Vallar, will see him take a junior role to Nathaniel Rothschild, as John Campbell did in the earlier venture, said a person familiar with the set-up of the new vehicle, who declined to be identified because the details are still private.
Julian Metherell, a senior banker who is leaving Goldman Sachs, will be chief financial officer, the same source said.
The aim is to raise about 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) and proceed after Vallar’s tie-up with Bumi of Indonesia completes, this person said, confirming earlier reports.
The Sunday Times previously reported that the new board would also include Petrofac Chairman Rodney Chase, ex-Corus Chairman Jim Leng and former Enterprise Oil Chairman Graham Hearne.
The source confirmed that report.
Reporting by Quentin Webb; additional reporting by Tom Bergin; editing by Sophie Walker