LONDON, July 26 (Xinhua) -- Oil giant BP could announce the departure of Chief Executive Tony Hayward ahead of its half-year results on Tuesday, a number of media organizations quoted sources as saying.
Bob Dudley, the managing director who has had a better media profile since taking over the company's Gulf of Mexico oil spill response last month, is now the front-runner to succeed Hayward.
British newspaper Telegraph said it now appears almost certain that Hayward would announce his departure after negotiations on the details of his severance package over the weekend.
The Washington Post also reported that Hayward's departure from his job as BP's chief executive will top the agenda when the company's board of directors meets Monday night, citing "a source close to the company."
Hayward recognized that he has become a "a liability going forward" and is ready to step down, the source said on condition of anonymity.
The CEO change could be announced as early as Monday, the Associated Press quoted a U.S. official as saying.
Hayward has been working with BP since 1982. He began his career as a rig geologist and rose to group treasurer in 2000. He was chief executive for BP's upstream activities and member of the main board for several years before being appointed group chief executive in May 2007.
Hayward faced mounting pressure since the start of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in April, partly for his previous pledge to work on drilling safety. He was also criticized for going sailing on his yacht after returning to England from a period of tongue-lashing in the United States.
Dudley stepped in to head the Gulf of Mexico response after Hayward's return from the United States, speeding up plans for a BP unit that would be devoted entirely to fixing the damages from the Gulf oil spill.
He has enjoyed better relations with the media, although "it will take more than Dudley's calm demeanor and American accent to clean up BP's image," as Washington Post writer Steven Mufson puts it.
Dudley is now BP's managing director, overseeing the company's activities in the Americas and Asia.
He is a native of Mississippi with a degree in chemical engineering and an MBA from Southern Methodist University. He has worked in commercial, operating and corporate roles across the oil and gas industry for BP and, previously, Amoco before the merger of the two in 1998.
If his appointment as chief executive is approved, he will be the first American to run BP, which was previously known as British Petroleum.
The source close to the company said Hayward is expected to step down on Oct. 1 and leave the board at the end of the year.
Analysts say the departure of Hayward would be a sign of him taking full responsibility for the Gulf oil leak and the bad publicity. There have also been media reports on the possible exit of other executives.
BP spokesman Toby Odone said on Sunday that Hayward "remains BP's chief executive, and he has the confidence of the board and senior management." A change in company leadership will have to be approved by the board first.
The cost of repairing the damages caused by the Gulf oil spill has been huge for BP. It announced asset sales of 7 billion U.S. dollars earlier this month to generate the cash necessary for meeting the obligations likely to arise from the Gulf oil spill. A provision of up to 30 billion U.S. dollars is also expected.
BP has managed to cap the ruptured oil well at least temporarily and has been working on a relief well in an effort to fix the leak.
The price of BP's ordinary shares closed lower at 398.6 pounds per share on Friday. It has gone through a roller coaster ride since April, rising to this year's high of 658.2 pounds before the oil leak and dropping to a year-low of 296 pounds after the disaster.
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