Lord Browne quits BP, victim of a kiss'n'tell

Lord Browne's shock resignation as chief executive of BP highlights an uncomfortable truth about the modern world of work. Despite all the talk of diversity, equality and judging individuals only by the results they achieve, British business remains resolutely stuck in the bad old days when it comes to acknowledging homosexuality among its number.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Browne's hand was forced after a court lifted a legal injunction preventing the Mail on Sunday from publishing allegations about his private life, including his four-year relationship with Jeff Chevalier. Said Browne: ‘In my 41 years with BP, I have kept my private life separate from my business life. I have always regarded my sexuality as a personal matter, to be kept private.'

Browne's desire to keep his private and public lives separate must have stemmed partly out of fear of the public and media furore that is now unfolding. His career has been damaged irreparably. His decision to resign will mean the loss of his agreed entitlement to a year's notice including a bonus of up to 1.3 times his annual salary, worth in total more than £3.5m. He also misses out on a long-term performance share plan for 2007-09 which could have netted him up to £12m.

The most telling point of this sorry tale is that while Browne's career was able - just - to survive the Texas City oil refinery blast, which killed BP workers and led to widespread criticism of the company's methods, it has been sunk by the revelation that he is gay, and by the no doubt sordid and irrelevant kiss'n'tell story that will now follow.

Only in business could this still happen. There are no out gay chief execs in the FTSE 250 that we at MT know of. Were Browne plying his trade in the worlds of politics, media or sport, such personal concerns would no longer be regarded as career limiting in any way. It's a hugely unfortunate end to what has for the most part been a terrifically successful and influential term as CEO for Browne, and one that reflects badly on all of us in the business community.  

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