Fresh squall for BP as the boss goes yachting

White House furious after Tony Hayward is seen relaxing on Isle of Wight, while oil giant's business partner threatens legal action

BP was dealt a double blow yesterday when its embattled chief executive, Tony Hayward, drew further fire from the White House after he was spotted relaxing at a yachting event, and one the company's busi-ness partners blamed it for the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and threatened legal action over what it described as "gross negligence or wilful misconduct".

Mr Hayward spent the day on the Isle of Wight – to the ire of Rahm Emanuel, the White House Chief of Staff – as BP officials insisted that he was still in charge of the operation to control the spill.

"This has just been part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes," said Mr Emanuel. "To quote Tony Hayward, he's got his life back, as he would say. I think we can all conclude that Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting.

"What's important is: are we capping the well? Are we containing the cleanup? Are we filing the claims? Are we also cleaning up the mess? That's what's important."

BP's spokeswoman, Sheila Williams, said Mr Hayward attended the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race in order to spend some time with his son, having spent most of the past two months away from family.

Anadarko Petroleum, which owns 25 per cent of the ruptured oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, said that BP had acted recklessly in the run-up to the disaster. James Hackett, Anadarko's chief executive, said it was considering "contractual remedies" and added: "The mounting evidence clearly demonstrates that this tragedy was preventable and the direct result of BP's reckless decisions and actions."

The double whammy from Anadarko Petroleum and Mr Emanuel compounded one of the worst weeks in BP's 100-year history, during which it was handed a £13.5bn bill by the White House, suspended its dividend payout to shareholders and saw Mr Hayward publicly humiliated when he appeared before a congressional hearing.

Mr Hayward sought to put on a brave face after the latest attack, saying: "These allegations will neither distract the company's focus on stopping the leak nor alter our commitment to restore the Gulf coast."

But Anadarko's claim was lent weight by news that BP's well used cheaper anti-blowout technology than the industry standard and was less secure against natural gas blowouts of the type that destroyed it. The company had used this cheaper technology much more frequently than rival firms, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

Mr Hayward's future at the helm of the oil giant increasingly appears to be in doubt, with the BP chief executive now back in Britain and coming to terms with having been removed from his role in leading the response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP's managing director, Bob Dudley, will take over day-to-day management of the crisis, the firm's chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg confirmed on Friday. He said that Mr Hayward had damaged the company's reputation: "It is clear Tony has made remarks that have upset people," he said in a TV interview. "This has now turned into a reputation matter, financial and political, and that is why you will now see more of me."

The firm is believed to have been disturbed by Mr Hayward's performance before a US congressional committee last Thursday in which he was criticised for "stonewalling". During a seven-hour grilling he said on more than 60 occasions that he could not answer the question.

Democrat congressman Eliot Engel told him: "I, like everyone else here, and everyone else in America, am thoroughly disgusted. I think you're stalling. I think you're insulting our intelligence and I really resent it." At one point he was openly mocked by Republican congressman Cliff Stearns, who asked if he could tell them what day it was.

After Mr Hayward had been spotted on the Isle of Wight, Hugh Walding, the local co-ordinator of Friends of the Earth, said that the BP chief executive deserved all the condemnation he has received. "I'm sure that this will be seen as yet another public relations disaster for him from people who have got exceedingly upset about this whole thing," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?