Embattled BP chief executive Tony Hayward is reportedly planning to step down within a matter of weeks.
London-based newspaper The Times reported Hayward was preparing to announce his departure in late August or September, according to sources close to the company.
He has been under pressure to resign as the British-based company continues its battle to contain an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hayward has also been criticised for multiple public relations blunders since the April 20 spill. On May 30, he said that he wanted his "life back", and last month, he took time out from overseeing BP's cleanup efforts to watch his yacht take part in a glitzy race around England's Isle of Wight.
The 53-year-old took the job in 2007, when he promised a "laser-like focus" on safety, Bloomberg reported.
Hayward would have to step down so that BP could shore up its defences against a potential buyout threat by ExxonMobil or Royal Dutch Shell, the newspaper cited a person close to the matter as saying.
Robert Dudley, chief of BP's Gulf Coast restoration efforts, is viewed as the front-runner to replace Hayward, The Times said.
Analysts also say Iain Conn, head of refining and marketing at BP, and Andy Inglis, head of exploration and production, are possible candidates.
BP spokesman Scott Dean denied the report and told The Examiner that Hayward "remains BP's chief executive of the company" and was "very much in charge."
- NZ HERALD STAFF