Ill-fated Andrew Gowers on his bike as BP shakes up PR, is this a job opp for Peter Mandelson?

Former FT editor Andrew Gowers must be thinking of packing in this PR lark (it seems to be be giving up on him unfortunately).

Gowers joined BP a year as head of media just in time to preside over the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster which also led to the departure of BP CEO Tony Hayward. Now he’s leaving the company.

BP’s response to the crisis was widely criticised although it’s hard to see how anybody could have put a positive gloss on an engineering disaster that would go on to cost the company more than $20bn, pump zillions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and have every US politician from president Barack Obama downwards baying for BP blood.

The real villain of the piece was arguable Hayward’s predecessor Lord Browne, whose cost cutting regime is blamed by some for BP’s expensive mistakes.

Hayward didn’t help matters by putting his foot in his mouth now and again (at one point he said he “wanted his life back” when many Americans were losing their livelihoods) but it’s hard to see what Gowers could have done about that either apart from telling him to shut up.

Prior to joining BP Gowers had been the PR supremo at Wall Street investment bank Lehman Brothers when it imploded and sparked the financial crisis of autumn 2009. There wasn’t a hell of a lot he could have done about that either.

BP is now said to be trying to recruit a high level political fixer like Tony Blair’s former gatekeeper Anji Hunter who quit the firm in 2007. Well there is one such around of course in the sleek persona of Peter Mandelson, sidelined by Ed Miliband’s new Labour leadership.

Mandelson, now a Lord of course, may be too grand for a PR job and would certainly find it difficult to keep his nose out of politics.

Despite his reputation as the ace communicator who brought Tony Blair and New Labour to power even he must realise that company PR men only have a limited ability to influence events.

As for the unfortunate, but capable, Gowers he should probably bank his pay-off and head back to journalism. And make sure his severance deal doesn’t stop him writing what would obviously be a best-selling book.

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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.