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Total’s new boss promises stability after CEO death

The new head of French energy major Total promised "continuity and stability" after the death of the company's chief executive/AFP

The new head of French energy major Total promised “continuity and stability” after the death of the company’s chief executive/AFP

LONDRES, Oct 30 – The new head of French energy major Total on Thursday promised “continuity and stability” after the death of the company’s chief executive in a Moscow plane crash earlier this month.

“My objective is mainly continuity and stability. My main message we are a strong company,” Patrick Pouyanne said at the Oil and Money conference in London in his first public appearance since he was nominated chief executive of one of the world’s biggest energy companies last week.

The 51-year-old’s predecessor, Christophe de Margerie, was killed on October 20 along with three crew members when their private jet hit a snowplough as it was taking off.

In his address, Pouyanne also quoted a passage from a speech by De Margerie shortly before his sudden death about the Russian sanctions over Ukraine in which the late Total boss said: “We are against sanctions because we believe business is a force of good”.

Pouyanne added: “His position is mine”.

Russian prosecutors on Wednesday charged a rookie air traffic controller with causing multiple deaths through negligence by breaching air safety rules.

The driver of the snowplough and three other airport officials are also currently held for questioning.

Pouyanne’s appointment to the post was no surprise: he has been tipped as a possible heir to De Margerie ever since joining the executive committee in 2012.

Within Total, Pouyanne is known as an extremely dynamic man, with a bit of a temper.

Born on June 24, 1963, he is a graduate of the prestigious French engineering schools Ecole Polytechnique and the Ecole des Mines in Paris.

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He began his career in government, holding various positions in the industry ministry.

A technical advisor to prime minister Edouard Balladur from 1993 to 1995, he then became chief of staff to the information, technology and space minister from 1995 to 1996.

In 1997 he joined French oil company Elf which later became Total in a 2000 merger as chief administrative officer in Angola.

Two years later he was sent to Qatar where he was chief of exploration and production.

He continued up the career ladder, becoming a member of Total’s management committee in 2006 and in 2012 was appointed to head up refining and chemicals, also making his way onto the executive committee.

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