Two oil giants: Russian and French

By Slava Tsukerman

All the Russian leftists and most of Russian political populists are aggressively criticizing the privatizations that took place during the perestroika time. They share the belief of most of Russians that the industry belongs to all the citizens of the country, and privately owned industry is “stolen” from the people.

A tragic event of the past week brought to the attention of the public some documents, which make one very much question this mind set. The event is the tragic death of Christophe de Margerie, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the largest French oil corporation Total S.A..

A small private plane, a Falcon 50, en route from Moscow to Paris had crashed on takeoff at Vnukovo airport. The pilots did not notice a snowplow on the runway. Everyone on board was killed – the two pilots, a flight attendant, and the sole passenger, Christophe de Margerie.* De Margerie was probably one of the most active supporters of preserving western relations with Russia, opposing the sanctions. His shocking death in Moscow is in the center of attention of Russian media.

Among the publications triggered by the event a special place belongs to a publication made by Alexei Navalny, one of the better known figures of anti-Putin opposition. Navalny compared characteristics of two giant oil companies: Russian Rosneft (the largest oil producer in the World) and French Total S.A. Total, a private company. 69,5% of Rosneft belongs to Russian government.

Christophe de Margerie worked in the same company practically his entire life. He joined the Total Group, Total S.A., immediately after graduating from the ESCP Europe in Paris in 1974. He was CEO of the company from 14 February 2007 until his death.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors and the President of Rosneft Igor Sechin graduated from Leningrad State University in 1984 as a Portuguese and French languages scholar. After 4 years of service officially as a military interpreter in Africa, Sechin returns to Russia and meets another alumni of Leningrad University – Vladimir Putin. Between December 1999 and May 2008 Sechin was deputy chief of Putin’s administration, then until 21 May 2012, he served as Deputy Prime Minister of Russia.

Since July 2004 Sechin has been the chairman of the board of directors of Rosneft, which at that point swallowed up the assets of jailed tycoon Khodorkovsky’s Yukos. Here are quotes from Wikipedia :

“Khodorkovsky has accused Igor Sechin of plotting to have him arrested and plundering his oil company: ‘The second as well as the first case were organized by Igor Sechin. He orchestrated the first case against me out of greed and the second out of cowardice.’”

“According to Stratfor, ‘Sechin acts as boss of Russia’s gigantic state oil company Rosneft and commands the loyalty of the FSB. Thus, he represents the FSB’s hand in Russia’s energy sector.’”

Christophe de Margerie’s total annual compensation for his job was $7 million.
This figure is openly published in France.

Press reported that Igor Sechin’s total annual compensation for his job is $50 million! (According to Forbes, it is the highest compensation received by a manager in Russia. )
Sechin sued journalists for revealing this “secret” information.

This month Sechin asked Russian government to help cover Rosneft’s enormous debt of 1.5 trillion rubles ($42 billion) in state aid to help it cope with Western sanctions. The head of the oil giant suggested to spend money from National Wealth Fund, originally earmarked for Russian pensions, to buy Rosneft bonds. Putin followed the suggestion.

Total S.A. has no debts.

*EDITOR: The operator of the snowplow survived and said he had not realized he had strayed onto the runway.

Updated: October 31, 2014 — 8:49 am © 2016