When BP CEO Tony Hayward took a leisurely yacht sail off England’s Isle of Wight in the midst of the massive 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the world took notice — and even the White House spoke up.
Rahm Emanuel, who was then the White House Chief of Staff, said the decision to take the $270,000 vessel out on the water was “just part of a long line of PR gaffes and mistakes” for the brand.
The sail brought to mind something Hayward had said weeks earlier that upset people in the Gulf Coast who were reeling from the spill. His words: “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.”
(Hayward later apologised for the comment, calling it “hurtful” and “thoughtless”).
Victims of the BP oil spill also reacted negatively — albeit with more candour. “Man, that ain’t right,” Bobby Pitre of Louisiana told the BBC at the time. “None of us can even go out fishing, and he’s at the yacht races… I wish we could get a day off from the oil, too.”
Supporters of Hayward defended the CEO. “Everybody needs a little time off to recharge,” said John Curry, a BP spokesman, at the time.
Hayward stepped down from the position of CEO about a month later, though the BBC reported he would take in a £600,000 ($930,000) annual pension. Two years later, in 2012, he donated the by-then infamous yacht to charity.