Out of the frying pan into the fire for BP’s Andrew Gowers

Some people have the gift of timing and others certainly do not.

One such is the intelligent and personable Andrew Gowers who was replaced as editor of the Financial Times by US editor Lionel Barber in 2005. He then joined Lehman Brothers in London in June 2006 as communications boss only to be swallowed up in the firestorm that consumed the bank when the US Treasury declined to bail it out in the autumn of 2008. It subsequently emerged that working for Lehman boss Dick Fuld was not an experience Gowers enjoyed.

What a relief then to succeed long-time BP head of media Roddy Kennedy who retired a few weeks ago. Until, of course, a BP oil rig promptly blew up and the company is facing untold financial and reputational costs as a massive oil slick washes up on the coast of Louisiana.

Gowers has been prominent on the airwaves, trying desperately to make the point that BP will do its (rather large) bit while claiming it’s not all the oil company’s fault. This is not a view that cuts much ice in the United States, not least with US president Barack Obama who will be giving BP CEO Tony Hayward (the man who promised to clean up BP’s environmental record) the hairdryer treatment in Louisiana round about now.

When he was about to retire Kennedy (whose timing was, of course, impeccable) offered the advice that, in jobs like his, the best policy was often to do or say nothing. He’s right of course but it’s hardly an option for Gowers just now.

And on the subject of timing, the head of media job was offered by Hayward’s predecessor Lord Browne to Jeff Randall, formerly the BBC’s business editor. Randall decided that a column in the Daily Telegraph and, subsequently, the business editor’s job at Sky News suited him rather better.

Good choice Jeff!

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.