Lord John Browne, the once high-flying executive who seemingly could do no wrong, resigned abruptly after admitting he lied to a court about how he had met his former gay companion.
Browne had been fighting publication of an article about him in London’s Mail on Sunday newspaper. His departure could cost him $30 million in bonus and retirement benefits.
Tony Hayward becomes CEO immediately.
"In my 41 years with BP I have kept my private life separate from my business life. I have always regarded my sexuality as a personal matter, to be kept private. It is a matter of deep disappointment that a newspaper group has now decided that allegations about my personal life should be made public."
Browne’s reputation had already slipped as the result of two major incidents on his watch: A major oil spill in Alaska and the deadly explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery. Both were blamed on poor maintenance caused by a drive to cut costs.
As a result, Browne had already announced his intention to resign 18 month early, in July.
Of course Browne’s personal life should be his own. But this sordid mess came about when his former companion, Jeff Chevalier, alleged he had benefited improperly from BP computer and staff resources and then Browne lied to a British court about the relationship.
Browne denies any corporate wrongdoing and BP Chairman Peter Sutherland said the board reviewed the situation and "concluded that the allegations of misuse of company assets and resources were unfounded or insubstantive."
But he did lie to the court. Eighteenth and 19th Century author Sir Walter Scott summed it nicely when he wrote, "Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."
It’s a pity Lord Browne didn’t heed the warning. It also explains why we have trouble believing Big Oil’s claims.