The New York Times published an interesting article this past Sunday on the growing displeasure in Britain over use of the name “British Petroleum” by top federal officials in the United States in referring to the company responsible for the gulf oil spill.
It will be interesting to see whether President Obama will use the name "British Petroleum" tonight in his State of the Spill Speech.
If he does, it will be sure to stoke the embers of discontent into a firestorm of controversy among our friends in the United Kingdom.
The British will have good reason to be upset. And not just because the company did, in fact, formally change its name to BP several years ago.
A large segment of the media has failed to highlight BP’s deeply intertwined financial interests with powerful forces in the United States.
As the NY Times noted, 39 percent of the company is owned by American shareholders and six Americans – half the total – sit on its board of directors.
Here’s a partial list of America’s largest shareholders (courtesy of the NY Times):
The company’s single largest shareholder is the sprawling asset management firm BlackRock, based in New York City, which owned the equivalent of more than one billion shares of BP stock just two weeks before the Deepwater Horizon blowout, according to the financial analysis firm Capital IQ. (Bank of America owns a 34.1 percent stake in BlackRock.)
The second-largest American owner, and third largest over all, is State Street Global Advisors, based in Boston, with 307 million shares. After them are the mutual fund firm Capital Research and Management Company of Los Angeles, with 247 million shares, and the Vanguard Group, based in Malvern, Pa., with 140 million shares. Rounding out the top five is Franklin Resources of San Mateo, Calif., another publicly owned asset management firm, with 131 million shares.
Then there are the banks: as of March 31, JPMorgan Chase held a respectable 76 million shares; Bank of America, 69 million shares; and Goldman Sachs, 42 million shares.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is another a major investor, with nearly 43 million shares
So to those watching President Obama’s speech tonight thinking that BP is as an alien corporation stealthily invading United States waters and funneling the profits overseas, I say– not exactly.