BP official quits amid allegations
Ex-boyfriend: Chief misused resources
LONDON -- BP PLC's chief executive John Browne resigned yesterday, hours after a judge allowed a newspaper to publish allegations from a former boyfriend that the executive misused company resources.
Browne, who had already moved up his departure by more than a year after a deadly refinery blast in Texas and a giant oil spill in Alaska, denied any improper conduct relating to BP. But he acknowledged that he had lied to a judge about how he met his former partner, with whom he had a four-year relationship.
The Mail on Sunday, the newspaper that had sought to publish the claims, called for Browne to be prosecuted for perjury.
Browne said he regretted the lie, saying he was shocked at his private life being exposed, and was stepping down voluntarily "to avoid unnecessary embarrassment and distraction to the company."
"For the past 41 years of my career at BP I have kept my private life separate from my business life," he said.
Browne's designated successor, exploration and production head Tony Hayward, will take over as CEO immediately, the company said. He will have to repair BP's tarnished reputation after the series of high-profile operational and regulatory mishaps.
BP said Browne's decision meant he would lose a bonus of up to 1.3 times his annual salary, worth more than $6.9 million. He would also forgo inclusion in a share plan with a potential value of $23.9 million.
Browne, 59, had been fighting since January to keep the Mail on Sunday from publishing details from an interview with Jeff Chevalier. He acknowledged the relationship in a statement yesterday and apologized for lying to the judge.
"My initial witness statements . . . contained an untruthful account about how I first met Jeff," he said. "This account, prompted by my embarrassment and shock at the revelations, is a matter of deep regret."
The Mail on Sunday said it would provide evidence of Browne's deception to the attorney general's office.
"That Lord Browne should have felt free to lie deliberately and repeatedly raises deeply worrying questions about the system of secret court hearing which is increasingly being used by the rich and powerful to prevent the public knowing the truth about their activities," the newspaper said.
Browne was accused of using BP computers and staff to help Chevalier, of using support staff to set up and then wind down a company Browne created for him to run, and sending a senior BP employee to deliver cash to him.