By Steven Mufson
Washington Post staff writer
Sunday, July 25, 2010; 4:39 PM
Tony Hayward's departure from his job as BP's chief executive will be at the center of the agenda when the company's board of directors meets Monday night, according to a source close to the company.
The board is meeting in advance of Tuesday's release of quarterly results, and the directors will weigh how best to confront or defuse criticism as the company unveils its best estimates of massive losses arising from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hayward, a geologist who has spent his entire career at BP, recognizes that he has become "a liability going forward" and is ready to step down, the source close to the company said. The source asked for anonymity because the company has not yet announced its intentions.
Hayward is expected to step down Oct. 1 and to leave the BP board at the end of the year, said a source familiar with the talks between Hayward and the board.
The front-runner to succeed Hayward would be Robert Dudley, a Mississippi native who joined BP from Amoco after the two companies merged in 1998. Dudley, who was just put in charge of leading gulf coast cleanup efforts, would be the first American to run the company originally known as British Petroleum.
Lamar McKay, another American and current president of BP America, would probably take over gulf cleanup efforts from Dudley.
Hayward has come under sharp criticism from members of Congress, President Obama and many investment analysts for events leading up to the exploration well blowout. Some of his comments about the spill have been called insensitive to gulf coast residents.
Moreover, the company has struggled to stop not only the flow of oil but the flow of bad publicity, from complaints about the speed of payment of claims to gulf residents to doctoring photographs on its Web site. Some analysts say Hayward's exit would be a statement that someone is taking full responsibility.
Another source who spoke on condition of anonymity said that other top executives might also be ousted, but the source close to the company said that decision would be left to the new chief executive.
Among the executives whose positions are widely considered to be tenuous are Andy Inglis, the Houston-based head of global exploration and production who is also leading the relief well effort, and Doug Suttles, the chief operating officer who has played a prominent public role in addressing questions about BP's response to claims and cleanup issues.
Additional ousters could come of less prominent people further down the chain of command who might have made improper decisions about the design of the exploration well.
For now, BP spokesman Andrew Gowers said, "Tony Hayward remains chief executive of BP, with the support of the board. Any change in that would have to be announced through a formal stock exchange announcement."