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Damned if he does…

Damned if he does…

BP’s embattled chief exec Tony Hayward has come under fire for taking a day off to go and watch his yacht. A PR mistake? Maybe, but the truth is he’s damned either way.

June 20, 2010 1:38 by

PR disaster? Kipp thinks there are probably worse things for a business’s reputation than the CEO attending a yacht race (like accidentally pumping hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean, for instance). Nevertheless, we can understand why people are upset with BP chief exec Tony Hayward, who has been spotted on his yacht as it took part in the Isle of Wight “Round the Island” race this weekend.

For those whose livelihoods are in tatters after the Gulf of Mexico spill, it must be galling to see one of the top men at the company responsible taking time out to watch his rather expensive boat sail in some much less polluted water. And so predictably, Hayward is being vilified in the global press and heavily criticized in public by US politicians in particular.

But Kipp refuses to jump on the bandwagon.

The same people criticizing Hayward for taking a day off were the ones calling for his resignation just days ago. In fact, his “PR gaffes” and unpopularity have led to the BP chairman removing him from day-to-day involvement in the clean up and repair operation. If that’s the case, why shouldn’t he take a day off? Will the well repair work be on hold until he’s back? No. Will the clean up cease until he’s there to oversee it in person? No; BP managing director Bob Dudley now has hold of the reigns.

The unsavory truth for Hayward is that he will be damned no matter what he does. As chief exec of a company in crisis there is little doubt that Hayward bears no small responsibility for the unfolding disaster, but Kipp thinks it has become all-too convenient for US politicians and the press to lay the entirety of blame at his door. It helps to mask the fact that the US economy remains so reliant on oil that the White House, no matter who is or was resident, has always encouraged and pursued pro-drilling policies off the US coast. In this mess, few hands are clean.

Was it ill-judged for Hayward to spend his day off at a particularly public event involving luxury yachts while his company is devastating the water on the other side of the ocean? Yes, probably. It’s clear from both his actions and various statements that Hayward has a pretty poor grasp of public relations. But given the circumstances, was there really a right way for him to proceed? If he is involved in the clean up and repair operation they call for him to go, and if he goes they will say he is ducking his responsibility.

If Kipp were in the same boat we might opt for a day of peaceful sailing ourselves.

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