Job Opening: BP Chairman. Knighthood Optional.

Remember back when BP Chairman Peter Sutherland spoke with remarkable candor about the assault on TNK-BP? Back when he dismissed Alexei Miller’s $250 oil prediction as an “apocalyptic” joke and then “insulted” the Russian government? It appears that when you are in the twilight of your chairmanship, you are allowed to say whatever you want – and it seems in recent weeks that Sutherland has grown tired of all the fawning compliments of Vladimir Putin and the Russian market he had uttered over the years. Now with the scheduled departure of Sutherland next March, the FT has a new job advertisement:

BP needs a chairman Situation (still) vacant: Two or three days a week. Salary half a million quid a year. Must be willing to travel. Knighthood optional. Background in natural resources helpful. Experience of sticky situations in, say, Moscow a distinct advantage.

TNK-BP is all over the news once again today, but no story is more surprising (if not unbelievable) than a scoop picked up by the Wall Street Journal, which quotes representatives from AAR (Fridman, Vekselberg, and Blavatnik) accusing BP of conspiring along with the Russian government to force the sale of their stake. Stan Polovets, chief executive of the Alfa-Access-Renova consortium, said that BP would be “more comfortable having a state company as a partner.” That’s an interesting theory… If BP was in cahoots with the siloviki to divest the poor billionaires of their property, it’s odd that it was the British company, not AAR, which faced the extraordinary bureaucratic harassment, office raids, arrests, and visa denials. However, if AAR is telling the truth, then it would also make sense that the office raids against BP sought Gazprom-related documents, and how Igor Sechin has made himself a player in the dispute. This is getting really, really messy, and I’d hate to be the one to fill that job announcement…