BP CEO cancels appearance at major oil conference

Days after Tony Hayward is replaced as point man on Gulf spill, he cites relief efforts as reason for withdrawal

Published June 21, 2010 5:30PM (EDT)

BP chief executive Tony Hayward has pulled out of a scheduled appearance at a London oil conference on the eve of the event, citing his commitment to the Gulf of Mexico relief effort. The move comes just days after BP replaced Hayward, who infuriated some for his handling of the oil spill, as the point man in the clean-up.

BP PLC said Monday that Hayward would skip Tuesday's session of the World National Oil Companies Congress, an annual gathering of oil executives from across the globe.

The last-minute pullout follows stinging criticism of Hayward's attendance of a yacht race on the Isle of Wight off the coast of southern England over the weekend. BP has defended the trip as much-needed family time.

BP spokesman Jon Pack said Hayward's "very heavy schedule of commitments to the Gulf of Mexico" meant that Hayward couldn't make the conference, where he was due to give the keynote speech about the global responsibilities of international oil companies.

The London-based company had said on Sunday that Hayward planned to attend the gathering. Pack declined to say where Hayward would be Tuesday or whether he was returning to the slick-hit Gulf coast.

BP said over the weekend that Bob Dudley will take over as BP's point man on the spill response, replacing Hayward but still reporting to him.

As BP continues to try bring the spill under control, it is embroiled in a public battle with one of its partners over who is responsible for the catastrophic failure of the Deepwater Horizon well, which may have spilled anywhere from 68 million to 126 million gallons of crude.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which has a 25 percent stake in the well, that BP was grossly negligent in its operation of the failed drilling rig. It said that its joint operating agreement makes BP responsible to co-owners for any damage due to gross negligence or willful misconduct.

BP countered that all the partners shared in liability for damage resulting from exploration in Mississippi Canyon Block 252. It added that the co-owners had confirmed to the U.S. federal government that they would be liable for oil spill cleanup costs.

Stock in BP, which said it has now spent $2 billion since April 20 trying to stop the oil gusher and to pay initial claims for damages on shore, fell 2.2 percent to 349.5 pence ($5.18) in London Monday.

By Associated Press

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Gulf Oil Spill