Reflections On: Meeting Lord Browne, The Baron Browne of Madingley, and Sir Peter Westmacott

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With Lord Browne, The Baron Browne of Madingly, at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

It was immense pleasure to have an opportunity to meet Lord Edmund John Philip Browne, The Baron Browne of Madingley, FRS, FREng, at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Lord Browne has had an extensive career with BP, when he joined as an apprentice in 1966 on suggestion of his father, while still at University. Between 1969 and 1983, he held a variety of exploration and production posts in Anchorage, New York, San Francisco, London, and Canada. By 1984, he became Group Treasurer and Chief Executive of BP Finance International. In April 1986, he took up the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of The Standard Oil of Ohio in Cleveland, and by 1987, following the BP/Standard merger, in addition to his position as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of BP America, he was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Standard Oil Production Company. n 1989, he became Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of BP Exploration based in London. In September 1991, he joined BP’s board as a Managing Director. When the British Government sold its last remaining stake in the company, on June 10th, 1995, he was appointed Group Chief Executive. When BP and Amoco merged, he became Group Chief Executive of the combined group on December 31st, 1998 and served until 1 May 2007, becoming one of the most highly paid executives in the UK, with a remuneration package of approximately £5.7 million in 2004. Accortding to The Telegraph UK article, “Lord Browne’s tuition fees report published: a profile of the former BP chief“:

A close friend of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the crossbench peer pushed BP into the United States through a merger with the American firm Amoco in 1998 and subsequent takeovers of Arco and Castrol.

He also sought to re-brand BP as a “green” company and introduced the slogan “beyond petroleum” to promote efforts to secure sustainable energy sources. But Lord Browne was dogged by concerns about the safety culture at BP during his last years as chief executive.

He faced a catalogue of catastrophes including the death of 15 workers in an explosion at the company’s Texas City refinery and a major oil leak in Alaska. US government investigators published a highly critical report on the company’s safety protocols in March 2007.

The intensely-private businessman resigned abruptly in May the same year after losing a court case that allowed Associated Newspapers to publish embarrassing details about his personal life.

In a statement, Lord Browne admitted that he had been “untruthful” in court documents about details of his four-year relationship with a former boyfriend, Jeff Chevalier, who he met through an escort website.

Browne faced charges of perjury for lying to the court over how he met Chevalier, but, Mr Justice Eady, the presiding judge, decided not to refer the matter to the Attorney General as he considered the disclosure of Lord Browne’s behaviour “sufficient punishment”.

The relationship came to light following allegations that Lord Browne misused BP funds, facilities and staff to help run a mobile phone business for Mr Chevalier.

But Peter Sutherland, the BP chairman, said a review had found the allegations “unfounded or insubstantive” and expressed “deepest regret” at Lord Browne’s resignation.

The peer is believed to be among the country’s wealthiest pensioners, with a total retirement pay-off of £5.3 million and an estimated pension of £1 million a year from BP.

Since July 18th, 2001,  he has served as crossbencher in the House of Lords, the only upper house of any bicameral parliament to be larger than its respective lower house (815 to 650 in the House of Commons).

He is currently Executive Chairman of L1 Energy, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering from 2006 until 2011, was appointed Trustee of the Tate Gallery  on August 1st, 2007, and Chair of the Trustees in January 2009. In June 2010, he was appointed as the Government’s Lead Non-Executive Director, charged with recruiting business leaders to reformed departmental boards, and by October, it was announced that Lord Browne had been appointed chairman of the advisory board at Stanhope Capital as the asset manager gears up for international expansion. He is Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, and Chairman of the Trustees of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering.

He has also written The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good Business which argues that being out in the workplace increases productivity. According to the Financial Times article, “‘The Glass Closet,’ by Lord Browne“:

“I was not a victim,” Lord Browne declares early in The Glass Closet. “We must own up to own choices and I have made some bad ones.”

Furthermore, the NPR article, “Former BP CEO: ‘Glass Closet’ Still Holds Many Gay Workers Back” states:

During his 12 years as CEO, he never discussed his sexuality in the workplace. That changed in 2007, when his relationship with a male escort was exposed and Browne resigned amid an ensuing scandal. At the time, he said in a statement, “I have always regarded my sexuality as a personal matter, to be kept private.”

The presumption in the business world “is that everyone is straight,” Browne tells NPR’s Audie Cornish. “The presumption is that a man will have photographs on his desk of his wife and children.”

But looking back today, he says “it would have been better to come out, rather than not.” So Browne has written a manifesto, The Glass Closet: Why Coming Out Is Good For Business. In it, he shares his regrets and urges business to create a more supportive environment for gay and lesbian employees.

So where does this idea that a person shouldn’t be out in the workplace stem from? Many religious views against homosexuality still live on to this day, and certainly, it can depend upon which denomination you are a part of, but that doesn’t matter – anti-gay politics, like any other type of politics, is still extremely relevant in society. Because of this moral outrage over two people of the same gender engaging in consensual activity, there is often this intense focus on the lives of gay people, like that of Lord Browne, myself throughout grammar school (for 4 years I was sort of a ‘gay’ spokesperson that I never wanted to be), and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, whom recently cited the media scrutiny towards him and his partner as “offensive.” I definitely understand this, I have been there, and so has Michael Sam. This invasion of our personal lives is a real phenomena.

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During this election, Bernie Sanders has been criticizing Hillary Clinton for her giving speeches to Goldman Sachs. However, Goldman Sachs is an employer that wants their employees “to feel comfortable enough to be themselves fully,” has been awarded for their LGBT inclusion efforts, and has been called the “gay-friendliest Wall Street firm,” and I speak in their defense knowing that as an openly gay person, the LGBTQ population is a very diverse group of people who should have the opportunities to work, and be successful, in all aspects of society – not merely to have the same rights as others, equally.

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With Sir Peter Westmacott at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

320px-KCMG_JpegfileIt was quite a pleasure to meet Sir Peter Westmacott, KCMG, LVO, at Harvard’s Institute of Politics. He joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1972, with his first overseas posting as Second Secretary in Tehran, Iran in 1974. In 1978, he went sent to the European Commission at Brussels, and from 1980 until 1984, Paris. After returning to London, he became Head of Chancery from 1987. By 1990, he was Deputy Private Secretary to HRH The Prince of Wales, Charles, and HRH The Princess of Wales, the Lady Diana Spencer. In 1993, he was sent to Washington, D.C. to serve as Minister-councellor. He was later posted as Director for the Americas in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and Deputy Under Secretary of State. From 2002 until 2006, he was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Turkey, from 2007 until 2012 as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to France, and finally, from 2012 until 2016, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States (“the single most important country in the world“). In 2003, he was stationed at the office of the British Consulate General Istanbul, Turkey, when when several truck bombs exploded just outside it’s gates, killing 27 and wounding 450. The Lady Susie Westmacott was present at the time the picture was taken. (Here are a lot of links that might be of interest.)

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