U.K. oil major BP PLC’s (BP) Chief Executive John Browne resigned with immediate effect after a U.K. court removed an injunction that barred a newspaper group from publishing stories about his personal life and sexual orientation, BP said in a statement.
Tony Hayward, already chosen by BP to succeed Browne when Browne had announced in January he would step down this summer, became BP’s CEO with immediate effect, the company said in a statement.
Browne acknowledged in the statement that he had a four-year relationship with Jeff Chevalier, but he denied allegations related to limited use by Chevalier of BP company assets and resources. BP Chairman Peter Sutherland said the board of directors had reviewed the matter at Browne’s request and found such allegations "unfounded or in substantive."
Browne expressed disappointment at the efforts to reveal details about his private life.
"In my 41 years with BP I have kept my private life separate from my business life," Browne said. "I have always regarded my sexuality as a personal matter, to be kept private. It is a matter of deep disappointment that a newspaper group has now decided that allegations about my personal life should be made public."
Browne said Chevalier has chosen to tell his story to Associated Newspapers, publishers of The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Evening Standard.
Browne will give up a bonus of up to 1.3 times his annual salary, worth in total more than GBP3.5 million. He will also forego inclusion in the long-term performance share plan for 2007-2009 with a maximum potential value of some GBP12 million, the company said.
Before his sudden resignation, Browne was expected to step down at the end of July, more than a year earlier than he had previously planned, following a string of safety problems at BP’s U.S. operations, including an explosion at its Texas City, Texas, refinery that killed 15 people in 2005.
"This is a voluntary step which I am making to avoid unnecessary embarrassment and distraction to the company at this important time," Browne said.

(Dow Jones Newswires and Zawya)