Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of French oil giant Total SA, was killed in an airplane collision with a snow plow at Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport, Reuters reported. He was 63.
“Tonight, a plane crashed when it collided with a snow-clearing machine. Three crew members and a passenger died. I can confirm that the passenger was Total’s head de Margerie,” airport spokeswoman Elena Krylova said.
The collision occurred during takeoff of the Dassault Falcon business jet in which de Margerie was a passenger late on Monday, just minutes before midnight Moscow time, an airport statement said, adding that the plane was to fly to Paris.
De Margerie was on a list of attendees at a Russian government meeting on foreign investment in Gorki, near Moscow, on Monday. With his distinctive bushy mustache and outspoken manner, he was one of the most recognizable figures among the world’s top oil executives, the report said.
Philippe Boisseau, head of Total’s new energy division, and Patrick Pouyanne, who was tasked with reducing the group’s exposure to unprofitable European refining sectors, have been seen as potential successors.
A staunch defender of Russia and its energy policies amid the conflict in Ukraine, de Margerie told Reuters in a July interview that Europe should stop thinking about cutting its dependence on Russian gas and focus instead on making those deliveries safer.
Total is the fourth largest by market value among the western world’s top oil companies behind Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron. Russia accounted for about 9 percent of Total’s oil and gas output in 2013.
Total is France’s second-biggest listed company with a market value of 102 billion euros (US$130.5 billion).
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