Total CEO Christophe de Margerie has died in an air crash in Moscow.
Christophe de Margerie’s corporate jet collided with a snow plough and then was engulfed in flames. All four people on board were killed.
The driver of the snow plough was drunk, according to Russian investigators.
Christophe de Margerie, 63, had been chief executive of Europe’s third largest oil company since 2007. He was highly regarded within the oil industry.
“France is losing an extraordinary business leader who turned Total into a world giant,” French PM Manuel Valls said in a statement.
“France is losing a great industry captain and a patriot.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences.
News agency Tass quoted a Kremlin spokesman as saying: “The President highly appreciated de Mergerie’s business skills, his continued commitment to the development of not only bilateral Russian-French relations, but also on multi-faceted levels.”
Christophe de Margerie joined Total Group after graduating from the Ecole Superieure de Commerce in Paris in 1974.
At the company, where he had spent his entire career, he was nicknamed “Big Moustache”.
According to Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper, Christophe de Margerie had met Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev at his country residence outside Moscow to discuss foreign investment in Russia.
Total is an important player in the Russian energy market and Christophe de Margerie was a staunch defender of maintaining ties, despite Western sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine.
Total is one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia and is planning to double its output from the country by 2020.
Christophe de Margerie’s jet had been due to fly to Paris from Moscow’s Vnukovo International Airport.
Vnukovo, is located to the southwest of Moscow and is used by President Vladimir Putin and other government officials.
Russia’s emergencies ministry said in a statement the accident had involved a Falcon-50 plane shortly before midnight local time on October 20.
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