On June 10, NEWSWEEK published an interview with Tom Bower about his new book, Oil: Money, Politics, and Power in the 21st Century. Much of the interview focused on BP and its former CEO, John Browne. He wrote the following letter to NEWSWEEK's editor, Jon Meacham, to dispute some of the author's assertions.
I read, with interest, your article 'Behind Petroleum,' which contained a number of observations made by the author, Tom Bower, about me and my time as chief executive of BP plc. Mr. Bower has a right to his opinion and he is entitled to express it. However, in the article he makes a number of unsubstantiated assertions that are wholly inaccurate.
Mr. Bower certainly overstates the size and importance of BP; it was never the largest oil company in the world as Mr. Bower claims. Although the business did grow significantly during my time as CEO, BP was smaller than a number of other businesses in the sector.
As someone who has spent his lifetime working as an engineer, I was surprised to learn from Mr. Bower that I am not a member of that profession. I am currently president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK's national academy of engineering, and I have worked throughout my career to promote engineering as a discipline.
While I was CEO, BP increased the number of engineers that were appointed to the company. Many were promoted or appointed to senior positions within the business, a process that included the appointment of BP's first director of engineering.
It is not for me to comment on my successor, Tony Hayward, but Mr. Bower is quite incorrect in saying that there was no succession planning at BP. In fact, the opposite was the case. Mr. Hayward was one of a number of potential CEO candidates who were being prepared to lead the business.
I understand why Mr. Bower would seek to raise his profile by making superficial accusations about me in your publication. But yours is a magazine with a fine reputation, known for its high standards of integrity and accuracy. I was given no opportunity to respond to Mr. Bower's lurid accusations. This is a shame. The result was an article characterized by gossip and innuendo rather than accurate analysis.
I hope that in the future Newsweek will choose its interviewees with more care.
Lord Browne of Madingley
London, United Kingdom