lord browne

Gays In the Military? What About Gays in the Boardroom? Closeted + Running a $200 Billion Company

When you’re the chief executive of an enormous oil concern, your duties include finding new energy sources, navigating international environmental regulations, and delivering hefty profits for shareholders. But Lord John Browne, who headed BP (née British Petroleum) until 2007, had another line item on his job description: hide his sexuality. And it all came crumbling down when he lost a court case he hoped would prevent newspaper from publishing his same-sex private life, and expose him as a perjurer.

Browne, who resigned ahead of his planned departure from BP amidst the scandal, tells the BBC in a new interview the scandal “also told me who my friends were.”

Browne realized he was gay in the 1960s, when it was illegal, and knows for certain that being open about it would’ve prevented his rise in the business world. “The fear that was engendered in people’s hearts about being gay, in corporate life it was something you don’t talk about, and in the oil industry it was most definitely not something you did. … I buried it until my antenna felt … that someone, somewhere, had discovered something.”

So how does such a high-profile business leader keep his secret so quiet? “Ninety-nine percent was avoidable. You became very good at avoidance.”

Listen to the full interview here.