Svanberg slammed for ‘small people’ comment

BP chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg once again found himself in the news for the wrong reasons on Wednesday after comments in a White House press conference were interpreted as patronizing towards the ordinary people hit by the catastrophe.

Svanberg slammed for 'small people' comment

“We care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies who don’t care, but that is not the case with BP, we care about the small people,” Svanberg said.

The comments were cited all over the US media on Wednesday as indication of a patronizing attitude towards all of the small business owners and fisherman that have been affected by the Mexican Gulf oil spill.

BP was later keen to stress that English was not Carl-Henric Svanberg’s first language and that the true meaning of his choice of words had been lost in the translation. The Swede later apologised for the use of the phrase which he conceded was clumsy.

Svanberg and BP executives met with President Barack Obama on Wednesday to discuss the environmental catastrophe that has now continued for almost two months.

The firm’s main message from the meeting was one of regret for the accident and the handling of the spill and BP announced an agreement to set up a $20 billion fund to compensate those affected over the next four years.

The firm furthermore announced that it is withholding shareholder dividends in order to help finance the fund.

BP’s CEO Tony Hayward, who has become known for a few language slips of his own in recent weeks, is meanwhile set to face a US Congress committee on Thursday to account for BP’s actions over the spill.

The ruptured well is currently capped with a system pumping the oil into a ship on the surface of the ocean. The system was back in service on Wednesday afternoon following a five hour shut down after the vessel was struck by lightning, the firm reports.

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Svanberg chosen to head Volvo board: report

BP's criticised chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg will soon be appointed head of the board of the world's second-largest truck maker Volvo, Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) reported on Thursday.

Svanberg chosen to head Volvo board: report

“Carl-Henric Svanberg will take over as the new chairman of the board for Volvo … The announcement is expected to be made in a few weeks,” the newspaper wrote.

SvD said the appointment had been approved by Volvo’s two biggest owners, Renault and Industrivärden.

If the move is confirmed, Svanberg would replace Louis Schweitzer of France.

Svanberg is one of Sweden’s top business executives, and has formerly served as the chief executive of telecom networks giant Ericsson and locks and security company Assa Abloy.

He has however been heavily criticised in his position at BP.

He had only been chairman of the British energy giant for a few months when a massive explosion on April 20, 2010 rocked the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon rig leased by BP.

Svanberg was lambasted for his low profile in the crucial weeks after the spill and Britain’s Independent newspaper called him “the invisible man” while a Swedish daily referred to his “ostrich tactics.”

Criticism also raged after a meeting with US President Barack Obama on the White House lawn when the Swede said BP “cared about the small people.”

Should Svanberg move to Volvo, a Swedish switcheroo would be complete: Volvo’s former chief executive Leif Johansson was recently appointed chairman of Ericsson.

The two men have long been considered Sweden’s most successful business


Reflecting on the news, car industry expert Mikael Wickelgren at the University of Gothenburg said Svanberg’s appointment makes a lot of sense.

”It wasn’t really a surprise. Svanberg has been what you could call a management star in Sweden for a decade now and considering that Volvo had made the announcement of his predecessor’s departure long ago it was quite a logical step to take for both sides,” he told The Local.

”What Svanberg can bring to the table is the benefit of his recent experience of working with a large international organisation. Even though it is too early to say if it is the right move or not, it can be seen a positive step for the company to have him at the helm.”

Despite inevitable protests, not least in the wake of Svanberg’s handling of the BP oil spill crisis, Wickelgren doesn’t believe his appointment will cause much of an upset.

”You could say it was a controversial appointment, but any candidate for such a position would have something that could be held against them” he added.

Volvo has so far refused to comment on the report.

“The company never comments on these kinds of questions,” spokesman Mårten Wikforss told AFP.

When The Local contacted Volvo on Friday, the company confirmed they would not comment on shareholder issues.