As BP plc and the U.S. government were working to resume relief well drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) following the passing of Tropical Storm Bonnie over the weekend, BP CEO Tony Hayward was about to be ousted, it was widely reported.

BP's board of directors met Monday in London to determine the fate of the embattled Hayward, whose public relations missteps following the blowout of his company's Macondo well in the GOM exacerbated the ire of Americans at the UK-based oil major. The resulting spill is the largest oil spill in U.S. history and the nation's worst environmental disaster.

Some reports Monday had Hayward leaving the company soon, while other suggested that he would stick around to see the disastrous Macondo well permanently capped. It also was reported that Hayward could be appointed to head up the company's joint venture in Russia TNK-BP.

BP shares closed up nearly 5% at $38.65 on the New York Stock Exchange Monday.

Last week Hayward's departure was foreshadowed when online bookie Paddy Power paid out on bets that Hayward would leave the company by the end of the year (see Daily GPI, July 20a).

Rumored as Hayward's replacement is American Robert Dudley, currently the company's managing director and the former head of TNK-BP. Dudley would be the first American to run the company and is viewed by company observers as more skilled at diplomacy than Hayward.

An announcement on Hayward's fate could come by early Tuesday, the same day the company is to release its second quarter earnings. BP said in a statement Monday that no final decision had been made on Hayward.

Meanwhile in the Gulf, relief well activities at the Macondo well site were suspended last Friday because of potentially adverse weather associated with Tropical Storm Bonnie (see Daily GPI, July 26). Following the passing of the weather system, the DDIII drilling rig returned to the relief well site on Saturday and is taking steps necessary to reconnect with the well and resume drilling operations, BP said Monday.

"These steps are expected to take a number of days," the company said. "However, work on the second [backup] relief well has been suspended so as not to interfere with the first."

The busted well has been shut in for integrity testing since July 15 and is being monitored by BP (see Daily GPI, July 20b).

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