Magazine article Management Today

You Live & You Learn: Lord Browne of Madingley, Former CEO of BP and Chairman of L1 Energy

Magazine article Management Today

You Live & You Learn: Lord Browne of Madingley, Former CEO of BP and Chairman of L1 Energy

Article excerpt

My father was a British Army officer who later worked for Anglo-Persian Oil (now BP) so we were always travelling. After much resistance from my mother, who thought the idea of boarding school was primitive, I was sent to study at King's Ely in Cambridgeshire. I hated the regimentation and I was teased.

I studied physics at Cambridge and considered staying on to do research But my father told me I had to get a 'real' job. I joined BP as a university apprentice in 1966 and became a petroleum engineer in Alaska's frozen tundra.

Back then, BP was a gentlemen's club. The only women in the company worked in the 'typing pool'; it was all twinsets and one string of pearls. BP was regarded by everybody as a branch of the Foreign Office. It lacked ambition and everyone looked the same. I once turned up to work wearing a striped shirt and my boss said, 'You forgot to take your pyjamas off, then?'

My worst moment was the explosion at BP's Texas City refinery; 15 people were killed and many more were injured. Everyone was crying and a body was recovered while I was there. It was terrible. At the press conference that day, I accepted full responsibility. My lawyers warned me not to, but I didn't listen. We were to blame.

I still believe I did the right thing by resigning from BP. …

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