Has Gulf Disaster Caused Brit Bashing?

It's not just the disaster BP has been responsible for that has drawn such criticism, it's may also have to do with the way its chief executive sounds, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.

"There is no one who wants this thing over more than I do," BP CEO Tony Hayward has said. "You know, I want my life back."

Hayward may not just lack the PR touch. His British accent, some say, underlines that this is a British company fouling American waters.

"The U.S. does not appreciate the British point of view and the British method of communicating," said John Hofmeister, the former president of U.S. operations for Shell Oil. "I think they should have had an American spokesman as their primary spokesman from the beginning."

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

Blaming a foreign company, especially a British company, may be convenient but in this globalized age it's not that simple. Who actually owns BP? Forty percent of the shares are owned here in the U.K. and the second largest chunk of ownership, 39 percent, is in the United States.

Viewed from London, by its bicycling mayor and many others, the criticism of BP has bordered on Brit-bashing.

"Everybody looks at this with absolute anguish, but I don't think it is completely fair to start beating up very much on a company," said Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London. "A British company and doing damage to its share price and therefore U.K. pension funds and all the rest of it."

The costs to BP of trying to cap the spill and clean up the mess have driven its share price down by about $90 billion - a loss of about 47 percent of its pre-spill total value.

And now BP, which accounts for 12 percent of all British stock dividends, is being pressured not to pay its next dividend until the spill is stopped.

This disaster is in the Gulf, but its effects are being felt a long way away.

More on the Gulf Oil Spill:
BP Vows Faster Payment of Claims as Anger Mounts
Sheriff Fears Illegal Immigrants Cleaning Oil
Ask CBS News: Is BP Hiding Anything?
Tempers Flare in Gulf as BP Burns Oil
How Much Oil Has Leaked?
Scared Investors Send BP Shares to 14-Year Low
BP Given 72 Hours to Develop Better Plan
BP's Spill Contingency Plans Vastly Inadequate
Oil Spill Wildlife Devastation

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.

Comments

Follow Us

On Twitter