The Life BP’s CEO Wants Back: Weekends Off in Vail

ABC News' Bill Weir blogs from New York City:

What is the life Tony Hayward wants back? By all accounts, it was charmed, until Deepwater Horizon blew.

" I don’t work weekends. … And I take all my holidays,” the British CEO once told a BP publication as he explained his affinity for triathlons and West Ham football. Sailing through the tropics and skiing in Vail, Colo., are annual rituals with his wife, a former BP geophysicist, and their two kids.

And the company that provides this lifestyle -- and his $4.6 million salary last year -- is the only one he’s ever known.

Hayward is the eldest of seven from Slough, England the blue-collar town that serves as the setting for the British version of “The Office.” After he earned a degree at a midtier college, his initial application to BP was rejected. A Ph.D. in geology from Edinburgh University changed company executives’ minds and he joined the company at the age of 22.

He rose through the ranks exploring for oil in seven countries and got his first taste of drilling’s deadly risk. When a young worker was killed in Venezuela, Hayward went to the funeral as BP’s business unit manager.

“At the end of the service his mother came up to me and beat me on the chest,” he said in a past interview. “‘Why did you let it happen?’ she asked. It changed the way I think about safety. Leaders must make the safety of all who work for them their top priority.”

In 1990, at a BP conference in Arizona, the young geologist was noticed by Lord John Browne, the revered “Sun King” of BP, considered by many to be the United Kingdom’s greatest businessman of his generation. Hayward soon became one of the CEO’s aggressive young executives nicknamed the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and he emerged as Browne’s heir apparent.

That ascension was accelerated by a number of BP disasters in 2006-07 and the threat of a scandal. A lover of the closeted Lord Browne was threatening to go public with an affair that began through the gay escort service Suited and Booted.

Browne resigned in 2007, and Hayward took over as CEO, vowing to shake things up. “We had too many people that were working to save the world and lost sight of the fact that our primary purpose is to create value for shareholders,” he told a group of Stanford business students in July.

Hayward’s admonishments in that address take on new meaning in light of the natural and P.R. disasters he’s dealing with now.

“When you visit somewhere in your organization,” he said, “it is a reflection of you. What you see is what you do.”

Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...