What’s Blair up to? Elementary my dear Watson

May 29, 2007

paget_holmes.pngThe transition now has one recurrent theme. Why does Tony not step down? The transition from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown as Prime Minister is increasingly baffling. Is this a case for M Poirot, or for Sherlock Holmes?

The story takes on the form of a classic detective mystery. Tony has been undertaking a hectic schedule of events, mainly abroad. Shouldn’t the transistion include a gradual transfer of powers? What’s going on?

There may be a whole diary-load of reasons for his globe-trotting . As someone brought up on Agatha Christie, I’m attuned to her favorite themes. The mystery story appears to have many clues, but most of them are red herrings. The key lies in finding the unrevealed clue, and ignoring the rest.

Without cracking the code, we have to consider a range of possibilities: TB may be staying on ‘for his legacy’, ‘to influence the G8 leaders and actions’, ‘to fulfill a timetable for a grand goodbye (leaked memo)’, ‘as a nice advertising campaign and prelude for his next role, for the next role’.

Agatha teaches us that the answer may lie in considering some of these, but the heart of the matter may be elsewhere. If none of them make sense we have to make new sense. M Poirot or even Sherlock Holmes step forward. ‘We’ve got a little job that might interest you, Mr Holmes’

Further developments

Tuesday May 29th 2007. Tony Blair starts a one week tour of Africa in Libya. The meeting here will indicate renewal of links with Libya, and a symbolic start to a big business deal for BP.

Pehaps Lord Browne had been too distracted over the last few months to have been able to persuade Tony to go instead to Siberia, where the company’s future is looking rather less promising


Browne, Haywood and the BP Leadership Transition

May 13, 2007


Lord Browne’s resignation as head of BP on May 1st 2007 gets the Tabloidification treatment. Browne, credited with the rise of BP as a global oil company, and an exceptional businessman, has been brought down ultimately after admitting to lying in a court case. But the transition at BP to Tony Hayward as CEO is an equally instructive leadership story.

May 1st 2007

The Mail on Sunday has won the right to publish details of Lord Browne’s homosexual lifestyle. In his attempt to prevent publication, Lord Browne fabricated evidence to support the story he told in court. When this came to light, his resignation from BP followed.

The Economist this week called it the sad downfall of a Business Gernius.

A more interesting business story

A more interesting business story can be found accompanying Lord Browne’s decline and fall at BP. In his forty years with the company, his rise to CEO was hailed as a model of a self-made leader. He earned numerous honours for his significant part in BP’s transformation into one of the seven sisters, the billion dollar global oil giants.

Increasingly, the exploration game became less profitable. Efforts were made to cut back on expenses. A major disaster at the company’s Houston refinery, and a pipeline maintenance crisis in Alaska brought BP’s leadership under scrutiny. At a time when executive remuneration packages were increasingly challenged by investor pressure groups, Lord B’s arrangements were drawn to more public attention.

In January, 2007, Lord Browne who had planned to retire at the end of 2008, announced plans to bring forward his retirement to July. His chairman, Peter Sutherland described the out-going chief executive as

“the greatest British businessman of his generation .. his vision, intellect, leadership and skill have been a wonder to behold and he will be a difficult act to follow.”

A few weeks before he resigned, it was reported that Lord Browne would be leaving the company with a £5.3m pay-off, £21.7m pension, and millions of pounds in shares from his incentive arrangements. This was itself a controversial story, and opposition from individual shareholders was only resisted by support from institutional investors at the company’s AGM.


As BP’s problems accumulated, another senior executive at BP critically reviewed the company’s leadership in light of the Alaska and Texas City issues. A speech to company employees found its way on to the internet.

Head of exploration Tony Hayward made the comments at a town hall meeting in Houston, BP confirmed to the BBC.
Mr Hayward said leadership does not listen enough to what “the bottom” says and that safety needed more work.
The remarks, put on the intranet by staff, comes with BP in the firing line over recent incidents affecting safety.
A blast in March 2005 at BP’s Texas City refinery near Houston killed 15 people and injured 180.
And in the past year it had to close half its Alaskan oil field due to severe corrosion along its pipeline there.

Within weeks

Within weeks, Tony Hayward was appointed CEO designate, to take over when Lord Browne stepped done. This came to pass on 1st May 2007 on Browne’s resignation.