He has been branded a lord, a criminal and "Tiny".
He has endured interrogation by the US Congress and sparked global outrage by going sailing in the middle of an environmental disaster that threatened to engulf one of the world's largest oil companies.
For the rest of his life, he is likely to be referred to on first mention as "the former chief executive of BP" and be remembered for the numerous PR missteps he made during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.
Thank goodness for second chances.
These days, however, Tony Hayward, 55, has definitely moved on. He is likely to be found travelling, without an entourage, a couple of US dollar bills and a bank card in his pocket, between London, Ankara and Erbil, the bases of his latest company, Genel Energy.
On this January day, he is in Abu Dhabi, at the Yas Viceroy hotel, wearing a slate blue Hugo Boss polo shirt, his blazer slung over a nearby chair. There is not a single public relations representative in sight. No one there to make sure he does not utter the words "life" and "back" at an inappropriate moment. May 20, after the spill, he told a reporter "we're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused to their lives. There's no one who wants this thing over more than I do, I'd like my life back".
He remains standing for the interview because his lower back hurts. Right away he asks what The National thinks of his speech from the previous day, which he wrote himself. If you didn't know that he has been capable of raising billions of dollars and securing the rights to some of the most attractive oilfields in the world, you could easily mistake him for just another guy off the rig.
"I think what I did learn from 2010, [is] don't try and predict the future, because you never quite know what's coming around the corner," he says. "If you'd have said to me three years ago that I would be the CEO of a small Turkish company with a big interest in Kurdistan, exploring in Somaliland and various other places, I probably wouldn't have thought it was a very likely outcome."
When he was at the helm of a global oil empire, operating concessions in Abu Dhabi and elsewhere where teams of engineers pumped close to 4 million barrels of oil a day, his plan was to stick around for six or seven years and then "go on and become a chairman of something".
Today, his goals are more modest: broaden Genel Energy's portfolio, which includes Somaliland, Morocco and the Ivory Coast, and increase production to 400,000 barrels per day by the end of the decade. "That's pretty small really - maybe competing with Mubadala or Taqa, but not with BP," he says with a smile.
Mr Hayward remains a sought-after voice in the industry, sitting on the board of the mining giant Glencore and giving speeches to packed houses just as he did this month in Abu Dhabi to executives from Total, ExxonMobil and other oil giants.
But there's one subject he won't touch.
"I've never talked about the Gulf of Mexico - my lessons or anything - and I'm not going to," he says. "They're things that I keep for myself. One day I might, but for now, they're just for me."
Mr Hayward grew up as the oldest of seven children in Slough, just outside London, the son of a secretary and a middle manager in a textile factory.
He played football, went to the local grammar school and, with the scouts, tried sailing - a sport he would later take seriously enough to invest in a yacht worth several hundred thousand dollars with high-profile friends from the business world including the chief executive of Centrica, the British gas company.
But as a child, that kind of luxury wasn't on his radar. "My parents didn't have much money because we had a big family," he says. "I had a very humble beginning."
A love of the outdoors led to his studying geology at Birmingham. He went to Edinburgh for a doctorate, carrying out dissertation research in Turkey. By the time he finished in 1982, he was considering a life in academia but kept getting calls from oil companies.
"It was a great time to be a geologist with a PhD in the right subject," he recalled. "The oil price was US$75, $80 a barrel, boom time, everyone was recruiting like crazy. I had job offers from many people. The thing that swayed me ultimately was the chief geologist [at BP] called me up and said, 'We'd really like you to come.' I said: 'Ah, that's good.'"
BP deployed him first to Aberdeen as a rig geologist, where he loved going to offshore rigs during the North Sea oil boom. Soon afterward the company sent him to Paris, then China, Colombia and eventually Venezuela, where he headed BP's operations during the mid-1990s when the government opened up its oil industry to foreign investors.
"It was a bit like the Iraq licence rounds," he recalls. "It was successful because they had better terms and it was more commercial … it wasn't perfect but it was going well. And then politics changed."
Hugo Chavez came to power, and Mr Hayward moved to London to carry out the integration of BP and Amoco. It was the first of a series of mega-acquisitions among oil companies that dominated the 1990s and created majors designed to be sheltered from price shocks. He looks on that legacy with ambivalence.
"It hasn't worked out that way," he told oil company executives in the Abu Dhabi speech. "As a group supermajors have been unable or sometimes unwilling to pursue initiatives to deliver rolling growth … As an investment class, they've been underwhelming."
After the merger integration, he continued to climb the ranks, from BP group treasurer to head of exploration and production. Lord Browne, the chief executive at the time, singled Mr Hayward out as one of his protégés, whom he nicknamed turtles after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
When Lord Browne left over a scandal that involved spending company funds on a romantic partner, Mr Hayward took over.
Quieter than his predecessor, he refocused the company on oil, a change from Lord Browne's slogan of "Beyond Petroleum" and flashy investments in solar power and other emerging technologies. An explosion at BP's Texas City refinery that killed 15 workers in 2005 reiterated the importance of safety on Mr Hayward's agenda.
"If you actually looked at what I did at BP, you'll find that I focused enormously on safety, enormously," he says. "I transformed the place actually. But you know, accidents still happen, unfortunately."
The Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010; he resigned on July 27.
"It was a tremendous privilege and I loved it at the time," he says of heading BP. "I wouldn't change one day of it actually. But it's very demanding. Being the CEO of one of those companies, it's 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and it's relentless. Everyone wants a piece of you."
The interview is finished; he is off to dinner with longtime friends in the emirate. He puts on his jacket and starts on his way, alone.