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BP boss quits after allegations

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- BP's chief executive, John Browne, resigned Tuesday only hours after a judge cleared the way for a newspaper to publish details about his private life.

Browne led the energy giant for more than a decade and announced earlier this year that he would resign at the end of July. His sudden departure prompted BP to appoint Tony Hayward to take over as chief executive effective immediately.

According to a statement on the BP Web site, Browne resigned following a court ruling allowing newspapers to publish details about his relationship with former partner Jeff Chevalier.

Browne's love life has become the subject of scrutiny after Chevalier sold his story to a British newspaper.

"Concerning the court documents disclosed today, I wish to acknowledge that I did have a four-year relationship with Jeff Chevalier who has now chosen to tell his story to Associated Newspapers, publishers of The Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Evening Standard," he said.

Browne admitted giving "an untruthful account" about his first meeting with Chevalier in a witness statement in court. He later expressed regret and embarrassment, retracting and correcting his testimony.

The former CEO is also facing allegations of misconduct relating to "limited use" by Chevalier of a company computer and staff resources. Browne said he had informed the company's board of the claims, according to a BP statement said.

"At John's explicit request, the board instigated a review of the evidence," said BP chairman Peter Sutherland. "That review concluded that the allegations of misuse of company assets and resources were unfounded or insubstantive."

Browne's decision to step down was to insure that public focus on his private life did not interfere with BP's operations, Sutherland added.

"The Board of BP has accepted John's resignation with the deepest regret," he said. "For a chief executive who has made such an enormous contribution to this great company, it is a tragedy that he should be compelled by his sense of honor to resign in these painful circumstances."

Browne, who has spent his entire professional life working for BP, denied any allegations of misconduct, saying they were "misleading and erroneous claims."

During his 41 years with BP, Browne said he always kept his private life separate from his business life.

"I have always regarded my sexuality as a personal matter, to be kept private," he said. "It is a matter of deep disappointment that a newspaper group has now decided that allegations about my personal life should be made public."

Browne's early departure means he will lose a bonus of up to 1.3 times his annual salary, that comes to more than £3.5 million. He will also miss out on the long-term performance share plan for 2007-2009 with a maximum potential value of some £12 million, the BP statement said.

"This is a voluntary step which I am making to avoid unnecessary embarrassment and distraction to the company at this important time," Browne said, adding he would not be making any more comments on his personal life.


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