Not too long ago, BP CEO Tony Hayward said, "I don't feel my job is on the line, but of course that might change."
After a series of gaffes - including dismissing the amount of oil in the Gulf of Mexico as "tiny" compared with all that seawater, and then whining that "I want my life back" - calls are growing for the British oil titan's head to roll.
"The CEO of BP was talking about he wants his life back. I'm to the point where I wish the board would call him back," Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) told "Good Morning America" yesterday.
Shareholders are suing him for devaluing BP stock. And a Canadian columnist mused that the only person who still admires Hayward must be Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, because Hayward relieved him as the Most Hated Man in America.
Hayward is presiding over not only the worst oil spill in U.S. history, but also an existential disaster for the firm where he has spent his life.
BP's price tag so far: $1 billion in cleanup costs, $58 billion in market value and immeasurable destruction to the BP brand. Hounds are baying at the Justice Department, and takeover talk has already started.
Confidants told The Independent, a British newspaper, that Hayward deliberately avoids watching the 24-hour coverage of the spill, instead spending hours in BP's Houston command center peering at footage of robots trying to plug the well.
When the crisis began, Hayward seemed surefooted. He relocated to a Ramada Inn in Louisiana and publicly took "full responsibility" for the disaster.
But then he began minimizing the illness of cleanup workers and the environmental cost of the spill, denied there were any underwater oil plumes and started to look increasingly arrogant.
On the Internet, angry twitterers and bloggers have been imagining various fates for Hayward, from tarring and feathering to jail to forcing him to swim around in a vat of dead shrimp.
Clearly taken aback by the growing furor zeroing in on him, Hayward apologized on Facebook yesterday for saying that he wanted his life back.
"I made a hurtful and thoughtless comment," Hayward said. "When I read that recently, I was appalled. I apologize, especially to the families of the 11 men who lost their lives."
Asked by reporters if he would step down, he said, "It would be ridiculous to resign at this point."
Hayward, 53, a ruddy-faced geologist who worked on rigs around the world before rising through BP's exploration department to become CEO of Europe's largest oil company in 2007, is generally publicity-shy.
Born middle class in Slough, England, he joined BP after getting a Ph.D. in geology at the University of Edinburgh.
His reputation as an energetic, blunt, down-to-earth manager stood in contrast to his predecessor and mentor, Lord John Browne, a regal, cultured and closeted aristocrat who quit in a 2007 scandal over paying off a blackmailing boyfriend with company funds.
"I think we have the opportunity to set a new benchmark in industrial safety," Hayward told the Houston Chronicle in a rare interview in 2007. "You earn your reputation through performance."
SO SICK of this asshole and his ~BP CARES~ ads. I think we have a new Biggest Douche in the Universe.
but I hafta say I lol'd at him being from Slough cause it made me think of David Brent