DR Tony Hayward, chief executive of BP at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in America two years ago, told an audience at Dauntsey’s School of the “perfect storm” of media attack and political invective he had to cope with.
Dr Hayward, giving the final Mercers’ lecture of the autumn term on Monday, summed up his last months in post as he gave more than 5,000 hours of media interviews.
Despite the dozens of technical elements that went wrong to cause the oil rig to explode, killing 11 people, Dr Hayward said his biggest mistakes were in managing the media storm that broke out.
In his talk, entitled Leadership in Adversity, he said: “You have to pay very careful attention to the tone of your response. “In my case, a six-foot tall Texan would have done a better job.”
His most famous gaffe came when he said on TV: “I want my life back.”
In response to a question on the well-known phrase, he said: “I didn’t realise the mic was still on. I had spent ten minutes explaining what BP was going to do to compensate the victims of the disaster and it was a throwaway line right at the end.”
Dr Hayward said, after a briefing with President Obama and senior White House aides, the White House chief of staff turned to him and said: “It’s not your fault, it’s just your turn.”