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BP shuffles top executives

By Steven Mufson

BP's new chief executive, Bob Dudley, has ousted the company's chief of exploration and production in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and divided his responsibilities among three other BP executives.

Dudley, an American who formally takes over the London-based oil giant on Friday, also said he would elevate the company's safety chief, Mark Bly, the author of the recent report on the Macondo well blowout, and give him broader powers over the company's worldwide operations.

Andy Inglis, BP's head of global exploration and production, will leave the company at the end of the year and lose his seat on the company's board of directors effective Oct. 31. A graduate of Cambridge University, he joined BP 30 years ago.

While leading BP's efforts to get the Macondo well under control, Inglis has kept out of public view since the April 20 blowout, making his first appearance in Washington last week at an Interior and Energy Department panel about the accident. There he kept carefully to the company's script, noting that while the Macondo well was "by no means the deepest well . . . it did pose unique challenges." He took no questions.

The moves are the first management changes since chief executive Tony Hayward announced in late July that he would step down effective Oct. 1. They are designed to address widespread criticism of BP for failing to identify or punish key decision makers in the blowout.

"These are the first and most urgent steps in a program I am putting in place to rebuild trust in BP - the trust of our customers, of governments, of our employees and of the world at large," Dudley said in a statement.

Earlier this week, a senior executive from another major oil company, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his business relationships, criticized BP for its lack of "accountability." He said that "it is shocking to see the way BP is playing this out." And he criticized Bly's report for focusing solely on mechanical issues and being "devoid of the human factor."

The human factor played a key role, experts and oil executives say, because senior people on the rig, including BP and Transocean employees, failed to respond to multiple signs that oil and gas was leaking into the well after it was supposed to have been sealed.

Bly will report directly to Dudley, and his safety division will have employees embedded in all of BP's operations, the company said.

"Our response to the incident needs to go beyond deep-water drilling," Dudley said in the release. "There are lessons for us relating to the way we operate, the way we organize our company and the way we manage risk."

Inglis will be replaced by three executive vice presidents: Mike Daly heading exploration, Bernard Looney in charge of development and Bob Fryar responsible for production. Together with Andy Hopwood, who becomes executive vice president for strategy and integration, they will join an expanded top management team reporting directly to Dudley.

By Steven Mufson  | September 29, 2010; 11:41 AM ET
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