If you’ve heard anything about Bob Dudley, the BP managing director who this week took over supervising the Gulf response from CEO Tony Hayward, you’ve probably heard that he was expelled from Russia in 2008.
So what happened?In 2003, Dudley became CEO of TNK-BP, BP’s joint venture in Russia along with Russian company AAR, a group of four Russian billionaire oligarchs. Over the years, tensions mounted between BP and the oligarchs. According to news reports from 2008, the oligarchs wanted more bang for their buck in the form of higher returns on their investment, while BP wanted to invest more profit back into the company.
The 50-50 venture became a fierce power struggle, with BP executives alleging harassment by both AAR and the Russian government, charges that the Russians denied. According to one report in the Times, Dudley was regularly sweeping his office for bugs and taking phone calls on his balcony to avoid being recorded.
It came to the point, in July 2008, where Dudley fled the country. His visa was set to expire, and it seemed that the Russians weren’t keen on renewing. BP was so paranoid at the time that they didn’t announce his departure until he was airborne, and refused to disclose his location.
Dudley continued to run the company from his secret location. In August, a Russian court banned Dudley from holding office in the country for two years. Then in early September, BP and the Russians signed a deal agreeing that Dudley would be out as CEO. The move, along with other provisions of the agreement, put the venture into Russian control.
A few months later, BP announced that Dudley was joining the board as managing director.
Dudley had already been involved in the Gulf response, acting as a community liaison of sorts and accompanying Hayward to his meeting at the White House. But as Dudley takes the reins of the Gulf response effort from Hayward, Dudley and BP are trying to give the impression of a fresh start.
“We’re doing things differently,” Dudley told reporters yesterday, on his second day on the job.
But he also admitted that had he been faced with a Congressional panel, he’d have responded the same way as Hayward.
“I would not be an informed witness of any kind on that. I am forward-looking to reconstruction,” he said.
And by all accounts, the oil will continue to gush from the bottom of the Gulf until two relief wells are finished sometime in August.