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Report: BP Chief on His Way Out

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Gaffe-prone BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward _ who incensed many on the Gulf Coast by saying he wanted his life back as they struggled with the fallout from the company’s massive oil spill _ will be replaced, a senior U.S. government official said Sunday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an announcement had not been made, was briefed on the decision by a senior BP official late last week.

The government official did not know who will replace Hayward or when it will happen. One of the most likely successors is BP Managing Director Bob Dudley, who is currently overseeing the British company’s spill response.

Earlier 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. An official announcement could come as early as Monday.

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.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said BP’s attitude about making things right is more important than who is running it.

“BP, from I think everybody’s perspective, made a very bad mistake,” she said. “I think what the world expects from BP is an acknowledgment that something was done wrong. I think BP has a long way to go to gain the trust of the people.”

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.

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