I posted recently about the damage to the corporate and personal reputation of BP and its CEO, John Browne over the attitude shown towards shareholders regarding executive payouts. Now it seems Browne had his mind on other matters as he leaves the company over a lie to the court regarding his private life.
Apparently a four month battle has been ongoing with the Mail on Sunday over allegations regarding a personal relationship with Jeff Chevalier, his Canadian partner between 2002 and 2006.
When someone has a solid reputation in business – and Browne was rated as one of the best in the business in annual CEO surveys – it seems surprising when their judgement is affected by personal attachments.
There should be no issue over Browne’s sexuality, but if company resources were misused and lies told under oath, then his credibility and reputation is destroyed.
In the case of squabbles with shareholders, corporate PR responsibilities will lie with the executives in terms of presenting the company perspective and implementing crisis management plans.
In the case of a crisis caused by the actions of individual executives – especially when these relate to their personal life – public relations is unlikely to be directed to assist the individual. In such cases, the CEO will find himself without the expert PR counsel he has relied on within the organisation – and will probably need to employ his own experts to manage media relations and try to recover a personal reputation.
Is this an argument for CEOs to employ their own PR counsel during their careers rather than rely on the in-house team, like sports stars do? Or would that cause problems when the personal and corporate best interests are in conflict?