LONDON (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ BP’s outgoing chief executive Tony Hayward was the target of fresh US anger Wednesday after claiming he had been “demonized and vilified,” threatening efforts to draw a line under the Gulf oil spill.
The comments by Hayward, who resigned Tuesday following his heavily criticised handling of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, drew renewed criticism from Washington as BP struggles to restore its reputation after the spillage.
“I don’t think that a lot of people in any country are feeling overly sorry for the former CEO of BP,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Hayward’s departure was a move by the oil giant to rebuild its image in the aftermath of the spill that BP has said will cost more than 32 billion dollars.
He will be succeeded from October by Bob Dudley, who is in charge of BP’s Gulf clean-up operations and who has vowed to “change the culture” of how the company tackles safety issues.
BP also said Tuesday it had made a record 16.9-billion-dollar loss in the second quarter, and will sell 30 billion dollars of assets over the next 18 months as it seeks to return to profitability.
“This is a very sad day for me personally,” Hayward told a conference call.
“I became the public face and was demonised and vilified. BP cannot move on in the US with me as its leader.”
He would not be drawn on whether he felt his treatment had been fair or not, but reportedly responded: “Life isn’t fair.”
But Gibbs hit back: “What’s not fair is what has happened on the Gulf, what is not fair is that the actions of some have caused the greatest environmental disaster that our country has ever seen.”
Hayward was also the target of fresh anger in the United States over a separate matter — his decision to snub a US Senate hearing into BP’s alleged role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said the hearing, originally scheduled for Thursday, had been postponed after key witnesses, including Hayward, had refused to attend.
He accused the BP executive of being interested only in his “multi-million-dollar golden parachute.”
Under his contract, Hayward will receive one year’s salary, worth 1.045 million pounds (1.245 million euros, 1.620 million dollars). He also has a pension pot totalling 11 million pounds.
BP and Hayward have been mauled by Washington since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 workers and unleashing millions of gallons of crude into the sea and onto the US Gulf coast.
It has taken more than three months to stem the flow. Up to four million barrels (170 million gallons) of crude have escaped.
The catastrophe has destroyed vital tourism, fishing and oil industries in the five US Gulf coast states and left BP facing soaring clean-up and compensation costs.
Hayward will step down on October 1, and will remain a BP board member until November 30, but has meanwhile been nominated as a non-executive director of Russian joint venture TNK-BP.
Dudley will become BP’s first US chief executive following the resignation.
“I think sometimes events like this shake you to the core, the foundation, and you have two responses,” Dudley said in a TV interview with ABC News, in reference to the oil disaster.
“One is to run away and hide, the other is to respond and really change the culture of the company and make sure all the checks and balances are there, just to make sure this does not happen again.”
Dudley added that his top priority was to permanently seal the Gulf well, contain the crude spill and to clean up and restore the area’s beaches. The group finally capped the leak on July 15.
BP’s share price has plunged about 40 percent since the explosion — wiping tens of billions of dollars off the group’s market value.
Hayward, 53, handed over day-to-day management of the crisis in June to Dudley, as criticism mounted over his gaffe-prone handling of the disaster, suggesting he wanted his “life back” and playing down the impact of the spill.
Although his departure was seen as inevitable, British newspapers said Wednesday it was unlikely to be enough to restore BP’s reputation.
“One top kill won’t solve problems,” said The Guardian.