Tony Hayward Sent Back to Britain

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>After his grueling testimony before Congress yesterday, BP CEO Tony Hayward is being moved out of the limelight. Carl-Henric Svanberg, chairman of the company, has announced that Hayward will no longer be overseeing day-to-day clean-up operations in the Gulf. He will return to England while BP's managing director, Robert Dudley, takes over the company's spill response effort.

Dudley's appointment is a clear attempt on BP's part to re-brand its reaction to the spill. He grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and often spent summers on the Gulf Coast. He has expressed horror at the damage the spill has levied on the region and lends a more sympathetic, in-touch, and, significantly, American presence to BP's leadership team.

Hayward, on the other hand, has been pegged as an arrogant, unfeeling Brit. The American media slammed his cold, complacent demeanor at yesterday's hearing, but the U.K. papers took a different stance. The Daily Mail ran a story titled, "Sliced and Diced on Capitol Hill: BP Boss Treated Like Public Enemy No. 1 by American Politicians," while the Daily Express compared the hearing to a "public execution." Hayward has not done much to endear himself to the reeling residents of the Gulf Coast, notoriously saying that he wants to get the spill under control because he'd "like [his] life back."

But could he have acted much differently at the hearing? Legally, Hayward was surely prohibited from commenting on the results of ongoing investigations. BP's stock prices have taken a beating recently, and shareholders would not have been pleased to see the company's CEO admit to criminal wrongdoing without comprehensive legal guidance.

While Hayward may try to lend BP some semblance of stability by not immediately resigning from his post as CEO, it's hard to imagine him continuing his leadership role. Toward the beginning of the hearing, subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak asked Hayward how much longer he expected to remain CEO of BP. Hayward, eyes glazed over, paused. "At the moment, I'm focused on the response," he said.

Acting as the face of a company is one of the job requirements of CEOs. And Tony Hayward's face, his boyish features and quiet eyes seemingly mocking the disaster his company wreaked, is now imprinted in Americans' memories.

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Nicole Allan is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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