LONDON – The board of oil giant BP faced a decision Monday on whether to keep Tony Hayward as its chief executive, although deliberations appeared to have narrowed to setting the terms for his departure.
After a series of blunders, Hayward has become the battered face of BP's efforts to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and clean up the damage. He was called back to London a month ago after a bruising encounter with a 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."
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.
News reports suggested that Hayward would be replaced by an American, Bob Dudley, who succeeded Hayward as BP's point man in dealing with the oil spill effort and was in London Monday with other board members. The Financial Times reported that Hayward was likely to remain in his post for a couple of months before handing it over.
A U.S. government official also said on condition of anonymity that Hayward was on his way out as CEO.
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.
It was not clear when BP would announce any management changes — it could be after London trading ends Monday, after New York trading ends or not even until 7 a.m. (0600 GMT, 2 a.m. EDT) Tuesday, an hour before London trading begins anew. The stock is traded in both London and New York.
"BP notes the press speculation over the weekend regarding potential changes to management and the charge for the costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP confirms that no final decision has been made on these matters," the company said in a statement Monday to the London Stock Exchange before trading began.
Shares were up 2.6 percent at 408.95 pence ($6.33) in midafternoon trading in London.