The future of Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, hangs in the balance this weekend as the BP board meets tomorrow to decide whether the beleaguered boss should quit over his role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Industry sources said that Mr Hayward has told the board he is prepared to announce his departure on Tuesday, when the oil giant reveals half-year results and estimates for the cost of the oil spill which killed 11 men. If he were to go, the likely successor would be Robert Dudley, the American who has taken day-to-day charge of cleaning up the spill.
However, a BP spokesman said that a decision would be taken at tomorrow's board meeting to sign off the results. But he added: "Tony has the full backing of the board and there is no plan for his departure at this stage." But sources said Mr Hayward has offered to resign – or at least announce a co-ordinated departure – if the board felt it was in the best interests of the company after the public outrage over the oil spill and the media blitz on his position. The board is also said to be considering other alternatives, including bringing in outsiders.
But BP's senior executives and staff argue that it is not Mr Hayward who should fall on his sword but Carl-Henric Svanberg, the Swedish chairman, who was notable for his absence in the first weeks after the disaster.
They maintain it was Mr Svanberg's lack of leadership that allowed the crisis to turn into a catastrophe, whipped up by US President Barack Obama. One alternative is to replace Mr Svanberg with Paul Anderson, a BP non-executive who had been tipped for the top job in the past.
BP is forecast to report interim profits of £5bn but will also give details of provisions set aside to cover clearing up the oil spill, to be funded by asset sales which could raise up to £10bn. The final cost could be as much as $50bn.