The business on: Aidan Heavey, Chief executive, Tullow Oil

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The Independent Online

Oh Lord, what's big oil done now?

Calm down, this is a good news story. Tullow has announced a big new oil find off the coast of Ghana. And Mr Heavey isn't going the way of his colleague Tony Hayward at BP any time soon. Having founded Tullow in 1985, he's the longest-serving chief executive in the FTSE 100.

Ghana? I didn't know there was oil there

There's oil all over Africa, where Tullow has specialised since a mate in an Irish bank first told Mr Heavey that the world's oil majors were abandoning the continent. That prompted Mr Heavey to sell his vintage car collection and plough his life savings into starting Tullow.

Has he got his money back?

And then some. He made the best part of £30m last year, owns homes in Dublin, the Caribbean and Surrey, where his family lives next door to Wentworth golf course. Mr Heavey plays off a handicap of 11.

What about the posh motors?

Just a few these days, including a Bentley Continental and a Lamborghini Jeep, though he's garaged the latter on cost grounds.

Yes, petrol prices do seem to keep on rising

Well at least he's in the right business – and with new oil discoveries few and far between these days, Tullow is well placed with its interests in the developing world, which rivals have neglected. Mr Heavey has pictures of himself shaking hands on deals with 15 African presidents so far.

Has the success gone to his head?

Actually, he seems reassuringly self-critical. His interviews are peppered with references to mistakes made in the past. He says that before moving into the oil business, he was a "crap accountant" (though he held a pretty senior job in finance at Aer Lingus) and admits Tullow was "rubbish" at finding new oilfields for far too long.

So who does sing his praises?

Shareholders have had a good run, but presumably Mr Heavey's wife is a fan, too. Lorraine, by the way, is a former singer with a top 10 hit, "Peaceful Paradise", to her name.