BP’s elusive Swedish chairman Henric Svanberg faced public wrath Thursday as he finally abandoned his yachting vacation off the southern coast of Thailand in favor of the oil-soaked shores of the U.S. Gulf coast.
Sometimes called the “Swedish Richard Branson,” Svanberg dropped in on the biggest environmental disaster in American history on his way back to Europe from Thailand – with his girlfriend, Swedish businesswoman Louise Julian, in tow.
There was apparently no sign of the dismal gloop that has plagued the Gulf of Mexico since April’s gusher began from aboard Svanberg’s 80-foot yacht that is crewed year-round and has sailed the chairman through luxury ports including Bali, Singapore and the Australian coast.
Svanberg appeared at the White House Wednesday to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama, but had previously garnered criticism by opting to avoid the situation publicly. Gaffe-prone CEO Tony Hayward instead served as spokesman for BP.
Hayward is due to appear before Congress Thursday for a grilling on the situation which has become a top priority for the U.S. government and a bellwether for Obama’s performance as president.
Obama’s administration scored two major victories in the past week with BP agreeing to set aside an $20 billion escrow fund for future claims as well as deciding not to pay out scheduled dividends to its shareholders.