BP CEO Tony Hayward attends glitzy yacht race; Gulf residents infuriated
BP CEO Tony Hayward spent part of his Saturday at a yacht race in England while some in U.S. have seen their livelihoods ruined by the massive two-month oil spill.
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That was before news about the yacht race broke but after the chief executive appeared at a U.S. House hearing and dodged questions, claiming he was out of the loop on decisions surrounding the well that blew when the Deepwater Horizon exploded.
"I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting," he said in an interview taped Saturday.
Obama has also struggled to counter criticism of how his administration has handled the disaster. Up to 120 million gallons of oil has already gushed into the Gulf.
Crude has been washing up from Louisiana to Florida, killing birds and fish, coating delicate marshes and wetlands and covering pristine beaches with tar balls.
A pair of relief wells that won't be done until August is the best bet to stop the massive spill. By late June, BP hopes a newly expanded containment system can keep nearly 90 percent of the flow from the broken pipe from hitting the ocean.
But the buzz Saturday on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook was all about Hayward's yacht outing, with many noting that Gulf residents want their lives back too.
It was not clear whether Hayward took part in the race, which he attended with his son, or was just a spectator. His boat finished fourth in its class. It often costs tens of thousands of dollars (pounds) to equip a yacht for a race as competitive as the Isle of Wight.
Meanwhile, environmentalists and local officials along the Gulf were infuriated by Hayward's weekend plans.
"I'm glad Mr. Hayward is on a yacht, because he certainly hasn't been helping us," said Robert Craft, the mayor of Gulf Shores, Ala. Officials on the Alabama coast estimate tourism is down about 50 percent because of the spill.
Questions remained about whether Hayward is still in charge of the cleanup effort. BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg seemed to suggest Friday that he was being withdrawn from the front line of the response.
"It is clear that Tony has made remarks that have upset people," Svanberg told Sky News television, adding that Hayward was "now handing over" daily operations to BP Managing Director Bob Dudley.
But BP spokeswoman Sheila Williams said Svanberg was misunderstood and that only a transition to Dudley, an American with 30 years in the oil business, had begun.
"Hayward is very much in charge until we've stopped the leak," she told the AP on Saturday.
BP, Britain's largest company before the oil rig exploded, has lost about 45 percent of its value since then — a drop has alarmed millions of British retirees whose pension funds hold BP stock. Just this week, BP announced that it was canceling its quarterly dividend.