Tributes have poured in for Christophe de Margerie, the garrulous chief executive of the Total oil company, who was killed when his corporate jet crashed into a snowplough at a Moscow airport on Monday night.
Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP, and one of the few oil industry executives to attain de Margerie’s levels of reknown in the industry, declared it “a very sad day”, describing him as “a creative, inspiring, breath of fresh air, severely missed by me and the oil industry.”
Shell chief executive Ben van Beurden, declared: “Christophe was a larger-than-life character, a leader respected across the energy industry and a friend.”
De Margerie’s absence will be especially sorely felt by his industry as he fearlessly defended “Big Oil” and its reputation for dealing with dictators and despotic regimes.
With his eccentric moustache and refusal to pay lipservice to political correctness, it was typical of him that, when asked in 2010 if oil companies were right to trade with such figures, he responded “bloody right”.
In Iraq, Iran, Angola, Burma, Nigeria and Sudan, de Margerie was there with his fountain pen, signing exploration deals. He saw it as his patriotic duty for France because of its lack of any oil or gas of its own.
So it was little surprise he should meet his end in Russia, where he has been famously doing deals with Vladimir Putin despite the Ukraine crisis.
Shortly before the crash at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport – whose driver was said to have been drunk – the 63-year-old was said to have been meeting Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss new investments in the country.
Mr Putin led the official tributes, saying that “Russia had lost a true friend.” Alexei Miller, chairman of Gazprom, added: “A gifted leader, an influential politician, a man respected by everyone who knew him passed away.”
De Margarie was a staunch critic of sanctions against both Russia and Iran. As well seeing such countries as places to make big profits and secure France’s energy security, he was of the view that trade was the best way to improve relations between nations.Reuse content