Dinu Patriciu: Businessman and enemy of the Romanian president after entering politics

‘He wanted to bring back idealism to our country,’ said a former political colleague

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Dinu Patriciu was an emblematic politician from Romania’s early post-communist years whose later career as an oil tycoon was marred by legal troubles.

He was a founder of the centre-right Liberal Party, which emerged in 1990 after communism ended to embrace democracy and the free market.

Patriciu, a suave former architect, was one of the first Romanian entrepreneurs, though his property investments suffered during the economic downturn. In 1998 he led an investor buy-out of the previously state-owned Romanian oil company, Rompetrol. He built the company into a multinational worth $8.6 billion before selling to Kazakhstan’s state-owned energy operator. According to Forbes, from 2008 he was the richest man in Romania, and by 2009 the 397th richest person in the world, with a fortune of $2.5 billion.

Both envied and admired, he left parliament in 2003 to focus on business and soon became a bitter rival of President Traian Basescu. “He wanted to bring back idealism to our country,” said Dinu Zamfirescu, a former dissident and party colleague. “He had libertarian ideas which weren’t always accepted.”

Basescu successfully sued for libel in 2011 after accusing Patriciu of circulating a video that appeared to show the president hitting a boy during a 2004 campaign. Basescu accused Patriciu of tampering with the film. He was acquitted of defrauding the state, money laundering and illegally manipulating markets to benefit Rompetrol. He died in a London hospital after suffering from cancer and liver disease. µ

Dinu Patriciu, politician and businessman: born Bucharest 3 August 1950; married (separated; two daughters); died London 19 August 2014.