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Of the Australian tycoon Alan Bond it used sometimes to be remarked that, after a nuclear war, there would be only three things left alive: seaweed, cockroaches and Bond. In British business these days, there is probably only one man with the same kind of durability: Peter Sutherland, chairman of BP. The recent warfare at the top of the giant oil company, which led to the early departure of its muchadmired chief executive Lord Browne, might not have been nuclear. But it was noticeable that after the dust had cleared, Sutherland was still in his job and Browne wasn't.
To anyone who knows him, that was no surprise. Sutherland has one of the toughest skins in global business. Through a series of big jobs - in politics, trade, finance and industry - the bluff Irishman has sailed from one triumph to the next. A lawyer by training, he has arguably the world's most impressive CV. As well as heading BP, he is chairman of Goldman Sachs International, set up and ran the World Trade Organisation, and is a former European commissioner.
Despite such eminence, he has remained, at least so far as the British media are concerned, a largely background figure. 'The role of the chairman is not to be the public face of the …