Hayward's departure: 'Not if, but when'
Tony Hayward looks like a dead chief executive walking.
Having spoken to those at the top of BP, none can come up with a scenario in which Mr Hayward stays at the helm of the bedraggled oil company longer than the proper capping of the leaking well and some kind of quantification of the financial damage.
It's not (or at least not yet) the result of the forensic investigations of who precisely was to blame both for the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon and the absence of a reliable process for stemming the leak.
Nor is it the direct consequence of Mr Hayward's hat-trick of public relations own goals, from the plea to reclaim his private life, to his refusal to answer questions put to him by a Congressional subcommittee on Thursday, to yesterday's participation in a JP Morgan yacht race around the Isle of Wight.
It's simpler than all that.
BP has suffered the kind of blow to its finances and its reputation (dividend suspended, share price down 45%, credit rating trashed, viewed as contemptible in much of America) , from which rehabilitation is impossible without a change of leadership - or at least, that is what those with significant influence over this business have, with a heavy heart, concluded.
That said, BP's directors would prefer that Mr Hayward isn't forced out by the weight of US political pressure too quickly.
Why would that be?
Well, right now Mr Hayward is performing an incredibly valuable service to BP.
He is absorbing most of the opprobrium heaped on BP by the White House, Congress, the media and Gulf Coast residents.
The danger of replacing him now is that his successor would quickly be tainted - and could then become a lame duck rather than a new start.
It's all a bit redolent of the board's preference to delay the suspension of the dividend - which turned out to be impossible.
What may have made it harder for Mr Hayward to linger on the bridge of this vast lumbering supertanker of a company was Friday's interview on Sky with BP's chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg.
The important background here is that the British boardroom tradition is that unless a chief executive is minutes from being sacked, the duty of the chairman is to say that he's doing a tip-top job.
The chairman may harbour doubts. But unless and until the dagger is firmly planted between the chief executive's shoulder blades, the chairman is not supposed to give a hint of those doubts to the wider public - for the good reason that it is pretty difficult for a chief executive to do the job if the owners and employees of the company fear that his or her days may be numbered.
In the face of savage criticism of Mr Hayward, Mr Svanberg did not once leap to his chief executive's defence. All he would say is that he would not judge his colleague prior to receiving the conclusions of assorted probes into the Gulf of Mexico debacle.
So if Mr Hayward has a growing sense of his own impending professional doom, he probably needs to look no further than to his own chairman for the cause.
Of course it may simply be that Mr Svanberg, a Swede who has never before chaired any company, let alone a British one - with all their idiosyncrasies - may not know that a chief executive can be damned in the UK by the mere absence of conspicuous backing from the chairman.
If Mr Svanberg is standing behind Mr Hayward, he'd probably better say so, pretty sharpish - lest Mr Hayward's authority diminishes so much that he can't even stay on as the loyal caretaker who absorbs all those blows.