MOSCOW (AP) — Christophe de Margerie, the charismatic CEO of Total SA who dedicated his career to the
multinational oil company, was killed at a Moscow airport when his private jet collided with a snowplow
whose driver was drunk, Russian investigators said Tuesday.
hit the snowplow during takeoff from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport at 11:57 p.m. Monday local time.
Tatyana Morozova, an official with the Investigative Committee, Russia’s main investigative agency, said
investigators are questioning the snowplow driver, who was not hurt, as well as air traffic controllers
"At the current time, it has been established that the driver of the snowplow was in a state of
alcoholic intoxication," Morozova said.
NTV television showed the charred plane lying on a grassy field. Though it had snowed earlier Monday in
Moscow, it was unclear how much snow remained at the airport at the time of the crash.
De Margerie, 63, was a regular fixture at international economic gatherings and one of the French
business community’s most outspoken and recognizable figures. His trademark silver handlebar earned him
the nickname "Big Mustache."
A critic of sanctions against Russia, he argued that isolating Russia was bad for the global economy. He
traveled regularly to Russia and recently dined in Paris with a Putin ally who is facing EU sanctions
over Russia’s involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.
According to the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram to his French counterpart
Francois Hollande, lauding de Margerie for being at the "origins of the many major joint projects
that have laid the basis for the fruitful cooperation between Russia and France in the energy sphere for
Hollande expressed his "stupor and sadness" at the news. In a statement, he praised de Margerie
for defending French industry on the global stage, and for his "independent character and original
De Margerie started working for Total in 1974 after receiving his degree because it was close to home. It
was a difficult time to join the firm as the oil embargo, which led to a fourfold increase in prices,
was coming to an end.
"I was told ‘You have made the absolute worst choice. Total will disappear in a few months,’"
he said in a 2007 interview with Le Monde newspaper.
De Margerie rose through the ranks, serving in several positions in the finance department and the
exploration and production division before becoming president of Total’s Middle East operations in 1995.
He became a member of Total’s policy-making executive committee in 1999, CEO in 2007, before adding the
post of chairman in 2010.
He was a central figure in Total’s role in the United Nations oil-for-food program in Iraq in the 1990s.
Total paid a fine in the U.S., though de Margerie was acquitted in France of corruption charges.
Under his leadership, Paris-based Total claims it became the fifth-largest publicly traded integrated
international oil and gas company in the world, with exploration and production operations in more than
On Monday, de Margerie took part in a meeting of Russia’s Foreign Investment Advisory Council with
members of Russia’s government and other international business executives.
Jean-Jacques Guilbaud, Total’s secretary general, said the group would continue on its current path and
that the board would meet in coming days to discuss who will succeed de Margerie. Total planned a minute
of silence in its offices worldwide at 2 p.m. Paris time.
After dipping slightly early Tuesday, Total’s share price was trading 2 percent higher, in line with the
broader rally in French stocks.
Hinnant contributed from Paris. Iuliia Subbotovska in Moscow and Angela Charlton in London contributed to
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