June 17th, 2010
08:23 AM ET
4 years ago

BP CEO Tony Hayward faces grilling as oil continues to spew

Tony Hayward will be in the hot seat facing lawmakers for the first time on Thursday.
Tony Hayward will be in the hot seat facing lawmakers for the first time on Thursday.

(CNN) - Lawmakers on Thursday will get their first chance to grill BP CEO Tony Hayward, the man fighting to save his and his company's reputation as BP fights to stop the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Hayward will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is chaired by Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak. The hearing will examine what caused the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig in April and the oil disaster.

A letter to Hayward from House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-California, says a congressional investigation alleges that the besieged oil company took a low-cost, speedy approach to drilling the now-broken deepwater well responsible for the growing spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The hearing comes a day after Hayward met with President Obama, who last week charged that if it were up to him, Hayward would have been fired by then.

In the eight weeks since the rig explosion, Hayward has become the punching bag for Gulf Coast residents who are furious that the oil is still spewing.

BP's costly public relations campaign features an apologetic Hayward detailing clean up efforts in the Gulf and promising, "We will get this done. We will get this right."

But the company's effort to repair its image has been countered by its inability to contain the oil and Hayward's penchant for gaffes.

A month after the rig sank, Hayward told Sky News that the environmental impact of the disaster would likely be "very, very modest." He later described the oil spill as an "environmental catastrophe."

Hayward also took heat for telling The Guardian that the size of the spill is "relatively tiny" in comparison to the "very big ocean."

BP's top man faced the most criticism from his poorly worded apology for the disruption the largest oil spill in U.S. history has caused. "There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back," he said.

In response to Hayward's comment, Christopher Jones, a brother of one of the 11 workers killed in the oil rig explosion, told the Senate Judiciary Committee, "Mr. Hayward, I want my brother's life back."

Hayward issued another apology for what he said was a "hurtful and thoughtless comment."

"When I read that recently, I was appalled. I apologize, especially to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives in this tragic accident," he said on his Facebook page.

In the past two months, Tony Hayward has become a media fixture and a household name.

Hayward, a 53-year-old Briton, grew up outside of London and started at BP as a geologist in 1982. He held various technical and commercial jobs in Europe, Asia and South America in the 1990s, according to his bio from BP. By 1997, he was on the executive committee, and in May of 2007, he was named CEO.

Hayward replaced Lord John Browne, who resigned three months earlier than planned after a judge cleared the way for a newspaper to publish details about an alleged homosexual relationship that Browne had.

When Hayward took over, BP was still recovering from the March 2005 explosion at a Texas City, Texas, refinery that killed 15 workers and the spill in Alaska the following year that was blamed partially on poor maintenance of the pipelines.

Hayward vowed to turn the company around. Pressed on how he'd be different from his predecessor, Hayward reportedly replied, "John Browne was John Browne. I'll be me. There is not a lot more I can say."

Prior to April, there had been no major disasters for the company since the Alaskan pipeline incident. Financially, the company has increased revenues every year since Hayward took over, with the exception of 2009, a year plagued by the recession. Profits have been strong, but up and down.

Last year, Hayward made $6 million. Despite calls for him to quit, Hayward insists he has no plans to step down.

Asked if the president trusts Hayward, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told CNN, "It's not about trusting Tony Hayward or anybody at BP. It is about ensuring that they live up to each and every responsibility that they have and that's exactly what the president and everybody in this administration will do."

This month, BP's stock hit a 14-year-low. Since the oil disaster began, the company has lost half of its market value.

- CNN's Dana Bash and Christine Romans contributed to this report.


Filed under: BP • Tony Hayward
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Tony Hayward!! Come on dowwwwn!!!

    Twenty minutes with our President= $20BILLION for our citizens in the Gulf WITH NO CAP! 100 days of meeting with Bush, Cheney and the rest of the pro-oil GOPers and we end up giving THEM $100million!

    Our Commander-in-Chief may not give you guys the 'drama' that would soothe your quirky souls, but he is level-headed and EFFECTIVE! Thank you Mr. President! Expert negotiators in this field said that what you did was UNPRECEDENTED in regards to obtaining this sum from a multi-national company. Keep on keeping on proving once again that you are here for the average
    American. God bless you!

    And you Tony...well, I guess you foound out yesterday that there is a new sheriff in town. Don't fret too much about today's proceedings. Your GOP BUDDIES WILL GO EASY ON YOU.

    June 17, 2010 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    ...And in regards to your apology: Well, I guess I'm not as good a Christian as I aspire to be.

    There's room for improvement on both our parts, huh Tony?

    June 17, 2010 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  3. grandstanding is not really the issue

    while it is nice to hear him taken to task, as I enjoyed it when Skilling was grilled and asked "how could you have an MBA from Harvard and claim to know nothing about accounting" laughed a while about that but he did serious damage to a lot of people's lives with his business mis-deeds

    as BP is now doing to the Gulf coast with its mis-deeds coating the Gulf coast in oil

    public embarrassment is definately needed, as is constant apologies from BP, but more than words, words say little, fix it BP, MAKE IT RIGHT AGAIN

    you have attacked a whole culture, New Orleans and surrounding is very special to the United States and fragile, this is not nature that attacked this time with Katrina, you are SOLELY to blame

    the 20 bill$ is a good start, GET IT DONE, make it right

    June 17, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  4. ST

    I think their is a collision of how people get the really meaning when other people say something.
    When Hayward said: "I would like my life back". He meant he would like everything to get back to normal as it was before the leakage. I hope he will explain this clearly when he will be on a hot seat facing the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    June 17, 2010 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  5. Tim

    Do you want to fix the oil problem and also heal the country's division? Put someone in charge who knows how to take charge.

    Bush would be the man.

    Obama wouldn't have the courage.

    June 17, 2010 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  6. Alan

    A criminal if ever there was one. They knew about the failed safety valve and pushed forward without it. Then this happens, killing 11 and a LOT of our most valuable natural resources in the gulf. What closer definition of a willful act of murder do you need?

    June 17, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  7. Robert J

    Ok so our represenatives want talk with Hayworth,,What do they hope to accomplish. The Dems will eat him alive-the Republicans will challenge him but with soft gloves and nothing will change. The "real" change happened yesterday. So now the lawmakers should be looking and digging at themselves and what a pitifully poor job they have done. Hayworth only did what they let him do. I am not condoning BP but our governments view of and enforcemnt of regulations is what got us here – from Reagan thru Bush 2 – maybe they would care to contribute a few billion of their own money to the cause- they are as guilty if not more than Hayworth. Wake up America! – business cannot be trusted to perform honestly and with ethics.Business "honesty and ethics" are just like "oil and water"! THEY DON"T MIX!

    June 17, 2010 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  8. Keith in Austin

    I wonder if our Congressional Democrats are as aggressive with Obama and his "in-action" for nearly 2 months? But then again, blaming everyone else is the Democrat mantra.

    June 17, 2010 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  9. Randall in Torrance, CA (USN - Retired) - GOP still sucks

    Every Republican law breaker needs to stand with this criminal when the gallows are set up. The GOP is just as guilty for the rape of the Gulf because for decades they made sure our government did not interfere with big oil companies' quest for bottomless profits. That's why the GOP is outraged at BP, so they will look innocent when the truth comes to the surface like an oil slick.

    June 17, 2010 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    Grilling isn't going to turn off the flow. Action will.

    June 17, 2010 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  11. GI Joe

    Boehner has major stock in BP – how many other senators and representatves support corporations so that their dividends will continue to go up year after year while this country is pilaged for their profits?

    June 17, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  12. Carlos

    A big business that takes shortcuts to save money and time?? THE OUTRAGE... as if every company in the world already does this! (sarcasm)

    This "grilling" is just another dog-and-pony show by Congress... Tony has to sit there and take his pesudo-lumps from his constituents while the cameras are rolling, because Congress has to make it look like they're effective and going after the big, bad corporate guy who did the bad thing – and the Congresspeople that score the biggest zingers against Tony in public will be formally apologizing to him in private.

    June 17, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  13. gg

    did i just hear a republican tell hayward and bp he was sorry for the president,s shake down of 20billion dollars i think his name was barton did i

    June 17, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  14. Rocco

    Why waste time and public money going through this meaningless dog and pony show. Instead of Congressmen taking easy shots to make political points and this slub sitting there only caring that his huge bonus may get reduced, fly all of them and their minions down to the Gulf, get them some waders and start them scrubbing some birds and turtles and raking some tar balls. That way, they show they care and something actually gets accomplished.

    June 17, 2010 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  15. Carol Johns

    There you go again democraps with your talk/talk/talk. How is all that talk getting the spill plugged in the Gulf?

    June 17, 2010 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  16. phoenix86

    Tony, Tell Obama to bugger off. He has no legal authority to require what he is asking (in the US it's called extorsion).

    And tell Congress to fix their own mess instead of pointing fingers. Just let BP fix the problem rather than calling you in for congressional photo-ops.

    June 17, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  17. ja

    the lawmakers doing the grilling were in the bed with the oil companies, otherwise this spill would be under control, the half measure policies have not been scrutinized

    June 17, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  18. Ed

    I think it would be appropriate, after the hearing conclude, to hold Mr. Hayward in protective custody until the leak is stopped. I think we'd be surprised how quickly the leaking would stop.

    June 17, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  19. Shiloh

    This so-called 'hearing' is a burlesque. It serves no purpose other than to give the pompous members of the committee an opportunity for some t.v. time to express their feigned indignation and outrage. Tony Heyward is nothing more than a prop. Why do the American people put up with this theatre? Vote them all out in November. We might get a few good ones in the process, but it is too risky to leave even one of them standing.

    June 17, 2010 10:59 am at 10:59 am |