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BP's Hayward: 'I became a villain for doing the right thing'

By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Outgoing BP chief executive Tony Hayward is defending his leadership of the company in the aftermath of the oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and led to the worst offshore spill in U.S. history.

"I became a villain for doing the right thing," Hayward told the Wall Street Journal in his first interview since announcing his exit earlier this week. "But I understand that people find it easier to vilify an individual more than a company."

Hayward told the newspaper that he took responsibility of the spill and has spent billions to contain the spewing oil and clean up the shoreline.

As the head of the company, Hayward became a target for public and political anger after the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April.

Hayward told the Journal that while he understood the Obama administration's frustration, he resented the constant criticism.

"I didn't want to leave BP (BP), because I love the company," Hayward said in the interview. "Because I love the company, I must leave BP."

Hayward will be replaced by an American, Robert Dudley, effective Oct. 1.

"In America, the road back will be long but I believe achievable when the whole truth of the accident finally emerges and the Gulf coast is restored....BP can rebuild faster in America without Tony Hayward as its CEO," he said in the interview.

After he helps Dudley transition into BP's top spot, Hayward will serve as a board member for BP's Russian oil and gas business, TNK-BP.  To top of page

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