“Korn Flakes Executive Recruitment. Office of the Chairman. May I help you?”
“This is Tony Hayward, I’d like speak to Gary.”
“One moment please. I’ll see if Mr. Burnside is available.”
A few long of minutes later, a cold voice returns to the line: “I’m sorry, Mr. Blayword, Mr. Burnside will be tied up in meetings for the rest of the week. I suggest you try again in July.”
“Miss! Gary and I both serve on the Business Roundtable. Tell him that if he doesn’t pick up the phone right now, I’ll leak some very interesting photos to Page 6 of the New York Post. He’s got 30 seconds.”
It only took 15.
“Tony! How the hell are you, old man? My secretary mispronounced your name.”
“Gary, thanks for taking my call. I’ve got a bit of a problem and I could use your help.”
“Tony, you have more that a little problem but go ahead.”
“Can you believe it. My board is about throw me out like yesterday’s garbage. Even after I committed hari-kari before Congress.
“The crisis management guru’s wanted me to come clean—they knew it was the only smart play; be straight with the public. The lawyers, however, demanded the legal cover up and the cowards on the Board bought it. So what choice did I have but to get run over by the train?”
“Tony, I understand. But it may take some time to find you the right spot. You certainly didn’t make any friends with that performance.”
“Look, I didn’t have any choice. The Chairman explained the facts of life. Zip it or else:
“First, my stock options were worthless and who else was going to pay me $6 million a year.
“Second, they presented me a new, highest quality Samurai sword with gold leaf instruction booklet.
“Third, regardless of the hearing I would no longer be the public CEO, though I would always have a job at BP. By the way, where is East Timor?
“Fourth, I can’t use of the BP jet any more. I had fly commercial — coach, no less, to avoid the paparazzi — to London to see my son’s yacht’s race this past weekend.
“Fifth, ah, forgot it. I’m a walking dead man.”
“Tony, Tony, actually, there are several possibilities.
“Yesterday, I got an call from that Indian hedge fund billionaire, Raj something. You know, the one who’s probably going to jail for insider trading. “He’s looking for a CEO and that pays $25 million.
“Second, there’s that slime ball who runs all those killer coal mines in West Virginia. He’s looking for a front man so he can run for governor. That’s only 10 but there’s 10 million more is you don’t kill anyone.
“Third, they’re opening a spent uranium storage depot in Utah. After all the safety violations you’ve accumulated, you could handle this in your sleep. Utah only pays $8 mil but there’s a volume bonus and a corporate jet to look at all those waste sites.
Think about it Tony. But not too long.
For the first time in a nearly a week, the once powerful CEO felt a sense of calm. Of hope.
Maybe there was life after BP. Maybe he wouldn’t have to read the Samurai sword instruction manual.
Bill Regardie was the founder and published of Regardie’s Magazine.