Tony Hayward (CEO): British Petroleum
Why this quit is big: Perhaps no other multi-national corporation received more bad publicity in 2010 than BP. Hayward served just over three years as BP’s CEO, although he was with the company for nearly 30 years, having served as BP Group Treasurer and Chief Executive in charge of exploration and production in the five years prior to becoming CEO. Basically, Hayward found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tony Hayward was the CEO on watch as the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history unfolded.
Why it’s not as big as our Top 10: Few would say BP is worse off from Hayward’s resignation. He is also still with BP, on the board for their Russian joint venture. In the catastrophe by which he will be forever associated, Hayward often made things worse. He publicly stated “I’d like my life back” and then attended a yacht race while his company failed to cap the largest oil spill in human history. There is an irony in Hayward being replaced by Robert Duffy, who spearheaded the oil spill clean-up. Insofar as the media, victims’ families, and activist groups looked for a scapegoat, Hayward was ripe for blame as BP could not fix what was virtually unfixable given the number of variables involved. Hayward had little choice but to resign. Whether anyone else could have done a better job is debatable. BP certainly could have done a better job of presenting an engaged, concerned CEO in an increasingly hostile environment.