BP's CEO Is Tiring of Dining on Crow

BP's (NYSE: BP  ) new CEO, Bob Dudley, is the first American in charge of the big British oil and gas producer. Perhaps fittingly, he is showing more of a willingness to fight back than his predecessor.

It was clearly appropriate staging when he appeared before a London audience to deliver his first speech in which he has taken to task the media, some other members of Big Oil, and critics of deepwater drilling, among others. However, the same points made to a U.S. audience may not have met with a benign response.

That's not to say that Dudley was combative. But it's also clear from his comments that he's weary of being expected to down a daily ration of crow, feathers and all. "We were certainly not perfect in our response, but we have tried to do the right thing," he told those attending the annual conference of the CBI, a British business lobbying group.

His comments represent the first instance since he became CEO when he has mixed contrition and defense of his company's role in the tragedy that began in mile-deep Gulf of Mexico water as personnel from BP, driller Transocean (NYSE: RIG  ) , and Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) were completing the Macondo well. The ultimate cause of the inferno aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig hasn't been fully determined. Nevertheless, 11 workers died on the rig, and a massive oil spill was unleashed.

Regarding the media, Dudley said, "I watched graphic projections of oil swirling around the Gulf, around Florida, across and around Bermuda to England -- these appeared authoritative and inevitable." He also took issue with "some in our industry" who criticized BP's safety measures and well design as being inadequate. Included among the companies that have espoused that notion are ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) , Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) , and Chevron (NYSE: CVX  ) , which all threw BP under the bus in front of Congress.

But it also appears that BP under Dudley is doing all it can to recompense -- financially and otherwise -- those affected by the tragedy. It's in the process of raising $30 billion to be applied to payments to accident victims. Indeed, on Monday it announced the sale of four deepwater Gulf fields to Japan's Marubeni Corp. for $650 million. Sales of these assets, which were acquired this year from Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN  ) , follow the unloading of other properties in places like Vietnam and Venezuela that raised an additional $1.8 billion.

What notions should Fools draw from Dudley's "enough is enough" attitude and his company's ongoing efforts to repair its image? With the company's shares having been crushed immediately following April 20 -- and only now working their way back -- I'd consider a wager that BP has a far brighter future than most might suppose.

Chevron is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. The Fool owns shares of Devon Energy and ExxonMobil. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith doesn't own shares of any of the companies named. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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