BP expected to deliver final blow to Hayward

BP's board will deliver the final blow to beleaguered chief executive Tony Hayward today by ending his 28-year career with the oil giant.

The firm said "no final decision" had been taken on Mr Hayward's future but his fate is set to be sealed at a board meeting this evening.

His departure is likely to be confirmed tomorrow alongside provisions running into tens of billions of dollars for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, which has triggered the worst crisis in the company's long history.

Mr Hayward has led the firm since 2007 but has committed a string of PR blunders since the crisis began in April and was reportedly negotiating his departure over the weekend.

Fellow board member and US citizen Bob Dudley - currently in charge of the clean-up operation - is the favourite to take over, becoming BP's first foreign chief executive.

BP said any decisions following the meeting would be "announced as appropriate" but declined to comment further.

Since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank on April 20 with the loss of 11 workers, Mr Hayward has raised hackles by claiming he "wanted his life back", going sailing, and an evasive performance before US senators in June, who accused him of stone-walling.

President Barack Obama said then that Mr Hayward should have been sacked - although BP later cooled the political heat by agreeing to set up a 20bn (€15.46bn) compensation fund.

The terms of his departure from the £1m (€1.2m)-a-year post are not yet known, although he will leave with a pension pot worth £10.8m (€12.94m).

He is entitled to a year's pay on departure, although Bargate Murray employment partner Philip Henson said he could receive more to "reflect his long service and dedication to BP".

Alongside his salary, Mr Hayward received a £2.09m (€2.5m) bonus for 2009 as well as £336,000 in shares which were issued under the firm's performance plan for 2006-08.

In February this year he also received £852,000 (€1.02m) in shares under the 2007-09 plan, while a further scheme running between 2009 and 2011 would give him a potential maximum of 1.18 million shares, worth almost £5m (€6m).

According to BP's annual report, he also has options more than 650,000 BP shares, although the prices are currently above the stock's level in the wider market following the firm's share price collapse, which has wiped around £45bn (€53.9bn) from BP's value.

Results tomorrow are likely to show the oil giant's first quarterly loss since 1992 due to the catastrophe, which should comfortably wipe out expected underlying profits of around US$5bn (€6).

The firm has axed its dividend for the first time since the Second World War - hitting pension funds in the UK and US - and selling off assets to help meet the cost of the clean-up. Later the firm is certain to face fines running into billions of dollars.

BP has resumed efforts to cut off the leaking well with a relief well after being forced to suspend operations due to a tropical storm.

The leak has been capped but the relief well - due to be completed early next month - will cut off the flow of oil permanently by intercepting the well miles below the seabed.

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