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BP chief may get post with Russian venture

NEW ORLEANS - Tony Hayward, who became the face of BP's flailing efforts to contain the massive Gulf oil spill, will step down as chief executive in October and be offered a job with the company's joint venture in Russia, a person familiar with the matter said yesterday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no official decision had been made or announced by the British company's board, which was meeting yesterday in London to decide Hayward's fate.

It's not yet clear what Hayward's role will be with TNK-BP. He left yesterday's board meeting without speaking to reporters, climbing into a silver Lexus that sped off.

BP owns half of the oil firm, which is Russia's third-largest.

It was once run by Bob Dudley, the American who seems to be the odds-on favorite to replace Hayward as BP chief executive. After Hayward made a series of missteps, including telling reporters he wanted his life back as Gulf residents struggled to deal with the spill, Dudley took over as BP's point man in dealing with it. He was in London Monday with other board members.

Hayward was called back to London a month ago after a bruising encounter with a Congressional committee and has since kept a low profile.

"We're getting to the end of the situation," said David Battersby at Redmayne Bentley Stockbrokers. "To draw a line under it, they need a new chief executive."

There is also persistent speculation that BP board chairman Karl-Henric Svanberg, who moved into the post on Jan. 1, is likely to lose his job later this year.

The board meeting comes a day before BP announces earnings for the second quarter. That report is expected to include preliminary provisions for the cost of the Gulf disaster, with analysts saying that could be as high as $30 billion. Last quarter, BP reported profit of $6.08 billion.

Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, said Monday that the so-called static kill to further plug the leak - in which mud and cement are blasted in from the top of the well - should start next Monday.

The final stage could begin Aug. 7.

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