Tony Hayward got his life back, should we care?

 While we celebrate the contribution of American workers on Labor Day and ponder a Romney business-based presidency, here is a little report from the twin departments of rewarding-corporate-failures and they-always-land-on-their-feet. 

On April 20 2010 BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion killed 11 workers and injured 17 more; the damaged underwater well head leaked 53,000 barrels of oil per day (estimates and rates vary) before it was finally capped on July 15th. Reportedly 1,100,000 gallons of chemical dispersants were injected at the well head 5,000 feet under the ocean surface. Millions of workers in coastal towns – shrimpers and fishermen, boat mechanics, service workers at resorts, hotels, and restaurants, gas station attendants, and more saw their jobs go up in smoke as fisheries shut down and incomes disappeared.

Even so it seems that after a mere 30 months the Deepwater disaster is fading into memory. Considering that growing emotional and cognitive distance, it may have been easier here in the US for former BP oil executive Tony Hayward to be granted a friendly rehabilitation from the New York Times, “[Hayward] … looking his elfin, curly-haired self”  
At the height of the spill the tone-deaf and/or arrogant Hayward, the corporate face of the disaster, said to a UK newspaper that the Gulf is a “very big ocean,” and on US TV famously remarked that “I’d like my life back.” Then – with the damaged well still spewing tens of thousands of barrels of oil per day, and just two days after being questioned by members of Congress about the damage – he flew away and took part sailing in a regatta off the Isle of Wight. Within about a year of the spill the man MSNBC named one of the ten biggest CEO screw-ups in 2010 was out at BP.  

By the end of 2011, however, with the buy-in of investor Nathaniel Rothschild, Hayward was quickly back in an energy-based  investment venture called Vallares. The New York Times reports:

[…] looking his elfin, curly-haired self and sounding more upbeat than he has in a long time, Mr. Hayward, it turns out, has his life back.

Offering no hint at any regrets or second thoughts, Hayward will not discuss the Deepwater disaster, and:

[…] associates say privately that he remains embittered by how he was vilified and then pushed out at BP.

Maybe he was pushed out, but shortly afterward Hayward had been appointed by BP to the board of TNK-BP, a joint venture with three Russian oligarchs.

Using his connections Tony Hayward quickly cobbled together enough big investors to enter into high-risk energy deals in war-torn Kurdistan and Iraq.

It might be surprising to Americans who watched the gulf spill unfold on TV, but Mr. Hayward's new investors tend to shrug off the disaster and his inglorious end at BP. NYTimes

In addition to investor Rothschild, a former Goldman Sachs executive, and two Turkish tycoons, he landed support from the successful New York hedge fund Paulson & Company, run by John A. Paulson. Hayward’s investment partner Paulson seems to be afflicted with the same type of ego-centric arrogance/tone-deafness disease.

Paulson made millions from credit-default swaps (essentially betting that owners of bubble-hyped properties financed with sub-par mortgages which companies like his were selling as investment-worthy instruments would default) when the housing market crashed and many Americans lost their homes. Yet he complained bitterly when Occupy movement protestors had the nerve to picket one of his many houses: a 28,500 sq ft Upper East Side townhouse (purchased in 2004 for $14.7 million).

“I think it’s somewhat misguided,” he says, growing agitated. “We pay a lot of taxes, especially living in New York – there’s an almost 13 percent city and state tax rate. 

[…] “We choose to stay here and then, you know, get yelled at. I think that’s misdirecting their anger at the wrong place.”

But Tony Hayward has his life back and is armed with a dream team of Russian oligarchs, US hedge-funders and Kurdish tycoon investors. Yup, with the shadow of the recent unpleasantness now fading behind him, the man that ran the company responsible for one monstrous ecological disaster appears set up to have another go, half a world away. Spill baby, spill.  

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