Tony Hayward, BP’s new chief executive, faces formidable challenges in the coming weeks but many expect the 50-year-old BP-lifer to be more than up to the job.

Previously head of exploration and production, he was originally scheduled to take over the top job at BP in July, after Lord Browne announced he would step down 18 months early.

Now, he must take over the reins at a time when BP’s safety record is under attack and after the name of his predecessor has been tarnished.

Mr Hayward emerged as the early frontrunner for Lord Browne’s job last year when speculation over the succession began.

Nevertheless, when his appointment as chief executive-designate was revealed he was a still a relative unknown to investors and energy ministers, lacking Lord Browne’s statesman-like presence.

He had long been one of Lord Browne’s favourites and as one of his “turtles” – the company nickname for BP high-fliers – he was carefully groomed for the top.

Since joining BP from Edinburgh university in 1982 as a first-class geology graduate, he has worked on some of its most critical operations. He became treasurer in 2000, gaining exposure to corporate finance and M&A activity before taking up the role of head of E&P in 2002.

Giving a hint to his future leadership style Mr Hayward told an audience in Houston in December that the current leadership style was “too directive and doesn’t listen sufficiently well’’.

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