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Reports: BP CEO Tony Hayward To Be Replaced

BP CEO Tony Hayward, shown testifying before Congress on June 17, has come under fire for his handling of the Gulf oil spill. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

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BP CEO Tony Hayward will step down in October and take a job with TNK-BP, the company's joint venture in Russia, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press on Monday.

Hayward became the face of BP's flailing efforts to contain the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and clean up millions in damages. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because an announcement has not yet been made.

Hayward's likely successor at BP is managing director Bob Dudley, an American who has been overseeing the spill response since June.

BP said earlier Monday that "no final decision" has been made about possible management changes. The company said its board would meet Monday evening, a day before it announces results for the second quarter.

"BP notes the press speculation over the weekend regarding potential changes to management and the charge for the costs of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. BP confirms that no final decision has been made on these matters," the company said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.

Earlier, a spokesman for BP in London, Mark Salt, told NPR that reports Hayward is being replaced are rumors and speculation, and the company won't comment on them.

"Tony Hayward remains our chief executive, and he has the full support of the board and senior management," Salt said.

The question now is whether that support will continue after Monday, when BP's board of directors meets to discuss the oil giant's second quarter financial results.

Reports of Hayward's exit in the past have come prematurely. But this time the reports are more numerous and quote unidentified company sources and a high-level U.S. government official, who all say a decision likely will be announced in the next day or two.

AP reports the U.S. government official did not know who would replace Hayward or when it would happen. One of the most likely successors, though, is Dudley.

On Sunday, BP spokesman Toby Odone seemed to downplay media speculation about Hayward's departure, saying he "remains BP's chief executive, and he has the confidence of the board and senior management."

BP's board would have to approve a change in company leadership.

It's been more than three months since an offshore drilling rig operated by BP exploded off Louisiana on April 20, killing 11 workers and setting off the spill. A temporary plug has stopped oil from gushing for more than a week now, but before that the busted well had spewed anywhere from 94 million to 184 million gallons into the Gulf.

Since the explosion, Hayward has made several highly publicized gaffes. Among them: going to a yacht race while oil washed up on Gulf shores, and uttering the now-infamous "I want my life back" line.

Oppenheimer & Co. senior analyst Fadel Gheit said in an interview Sunday that it was too bad Hayward's career was derailed by the spill, but "unfortunately he became a sacrificial lamb in a politically charged world."

Dudley would be well-suited to take over, Gheit said, describing him as even-tempered and a good delegator. It's never an easy time to instill new leadership in a company, though, he noted.

"I'm not sure if removing Tony Hayward is going to throw BP's problems away," Gheit said.

The company has already spent roughly $4 billion on its response to the crisis. The final tally could be in the tens of billions of dollars.

News that the CEO may depart came as no surprise to people living along the Gulf.

Patrick Shay, 43, sat on a porch swing of his cottage in Grand Isle on Sunday, his front yard filled with small, white crosses, each bearing the name of sealife or ways of life the oil spill has killed.

"He seems like a pretty self-absorbed person, so I'm not surprised to hear he would walk away in the middle of all this," he said. "If anything it will help. They need to get him out of the way and get this cleaned up."

In New Orleans, Chris Hearn, a 23-year-old security guard, said what's important is getting the oil stopped permanently.

"It doesn't matter who's in charge," he said. "As long as they clean it up, I really could care less. They just need to get it cleaned up because it's affecting all of us down here."

This report contains material by NPR's Jeff Brady and The Associated Press.

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