American may take BP helm

Bob Dudley, the Executive Director of BP, arrives at their headquarters in London -- July 26, 2010

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: By this time tomorrow, we are going to know how much the oil spill took off BP's bottom line in the past three months. Second quarter earnings are due out in the bmorning, although that's not the BP buzz today. Spill-related losses will be in the billions of dollars. We've known that was coming.

We also knew the real BP news this week was coming at some point, too: CEO Tony Hayward is said to be on his way out. The company isn't commenting, but it's widely expected that Robert Dudley will be named to succeed him. Not only has Dudley spent the last month or so running BP's response to the spill. He's American, and he grew down on the Gulf Coast.

Marketplace's Alisa Roth has more on why that might matter.


Alisa Roth: It's not a big surprise that BP is looking to bring in a new CEO. The current one has hardly endeared himself to anybody in this crisis from Washington to the Gulf Coast. What's more surprising is that his presumed successor, Robert Dudley, isn't British -- but American.

Mark Lipton: It shouldn't make a difference, but this catastrophe has become highly charged and highly emotional.

Mark Lipton is a management professor at the New School. He says BP's presumed choice is significant.

Lipton: To have not only an American, but an American who spent significant time in the South is highly symbolic.

BP is based in London. But about a third of its wells, refineries and other business are in the U.S. and so are 40 percent of its shareholders. Lipton says BP would get a two-for-one deal by promoting Dudley.

Lipton: Not only put someone in who's perceived of as very different -- American -- but perceived of as similar to us -- American.

That perception may be important. But some people say it misses the larger point. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld is a professor at the management school at Yale. He says nationality is irrelevant; hat matters is whether the CEO can do the job.

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld: Independent of your own situation is your training, your skill and your confidence. We don't care, you know, about his country or origin or what town he grew up in.

Dudley worked for Amoco, which is an American company, before he came to BP. No matter what happens tomorrow, the old CEO will likely stay in place until October.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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