It was about time, you’ll say, especially if you watched Tony Hayward’s media struggles, for someone with more skill to become the public face of BP. But Carl-Henric Svanberg will have a difficult task, that is to clean up BP’s public face, and the stain on it is not just oil.
Carl-Henric Svanberg took the command of the BP board in January, after previously being the chief of Telefon AB LM Ericsson. A powerful man, one of the best known businessmen in Sweden, he is the reason why Ericsson grew into a global telecom giant after the tech bubble burst. But the beginning was through a crisis, when he had to fire 55,000 people.
But the oil industry is new for Svanberg, who naively believed that being in this industry would make a “smoother ride.” His competence in this business is questioned, for example Roger Kenny, head of the board practice for executive recruiters CTPartners in New York, believes Mr. Svanberg may not survive as chairman once the oil stops leaking in the Gulf. “He can’t muster what’s needed, which is industry support,” he told WSJ.
Carl-Henric Svanberg reportedly emerged from behind the scenes because BP entered a phase of direct engagement with the government. If you paid attention to this company’s PR moves recently, you also know that BP has recently hired Anne Womack-Kolton as the company’s head of U.S. media relations. Judging by this lady’s experience, it is easy to conclude that the decision to step into the spotlight does not belong to Svanberg alone.
This is a new strategy, that slowly shifts Hayward to a secondary position and pushes a more experienced pawn to the 8th rank. Although the media reports that Svanberg opposes replacing Hayward, despite Obama’s suggestion, this is inevitable and it will happen sooner or later. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear in four-five months from now that Hayward “stepped down” from his current position.
Carl-Henric Svanberg will be facing U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday, to discuss the BP oil spill. He will face scrutiny for his oversight of the company’s managers during the worst crisis in the oil giant’s 102-year history, WSJ reported. Tony Hayward will also attend the meeting.
Multiple representatives of the PR agency for BP, Brunswick Group will also be in attendance.