Former BP CEO Tony Hayward gave his first interview last week in the UK. (http://tinyurl.com/32hnzud) While the article included comments from critics, he wasn’t as immediately challenged as his prior appearance in front of the US Congress or the lying-in-wait law suit depositions. Hayward – who has actually been well received by employees and others back home in the UK — clearly realized that he was the symbol of everything that went wrong in the Gulf. “…I understand that people find it easier to vilify an individual more than a company.” Hayward did concede that he was wrong when he said, ” I’d like my life back….BP can rebuild faster in America without Tony Hayward as its CEO.”
Critics in the article were less moved Hayward’s personal comments vs. the actual damage in the Gulf. “Mr. Hayward should be less concerned about his vindication, and more concerned about what BP will do to end the victimization of families and business in the Gulf,” added Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass).
In our experience, Hayward has a pretty good sense of what happened. It’s much easier for media and regulators to either blame or give credit to an individual than a corporations or organization. Whether Hayward is right in his assertion that he was doing everything “right”, we’ll let history and the courts pass that judgment.
The other point is that all crises eventually hit their low point – when the bad news turns around. For BP, Hayward was continually getting vilified while there was still no firm date for when the oil leak was going to stop. Only in the last couple of weeks, with the success of the caps and eventual relief wells can BP begin reputation repair in earnest. According to some research, with the slowing of the spill and the replacement of Hayward, BP’s public reputation has crawled back to slightly above Goldman Sachs.
The road back won’t be a straight path of improvement in business and perception. There will be numerous ups and downs. The day of Hayward’s interview, another report indicated that many BP gas station owners want BP to re-rebrand back to the Amoco name. Consider when ValuJet became AirTran after fatal plane crashes. http://tinyurl.com/2bg2t59
How do you think BP and Tony are doing? Do you care about Tony Hayward?