Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive officer of French oil company Total, died in a plane crash in Moscow when his private jet collided with a snow plow at the Vnukovo International Airport on Monday night. He was the only passenger on the plane, although the plane also carried three crew members. All four died when the plane caught fire after the collision.

Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal investigation on the incident and has confirmed that the driver of the snow plow, identified as Vladimir Martynenko, was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Martynenko, through his lawyer, has denied the accusations.

De Margerie was reportedly in Moscow to attend a Russian government meeting on foreign investment in Gorki, near Moscow, on Monday. The Total CEO even met Russian prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, at the latter’s country residence outside Moscow to discuss foreign investment in Russia.

The loss of de Margerie is a big blow to the French oil company. He was widely regarded as the driving force that turned Total into a heavyweight in the oil industry, steering the company to levels of success it had never reached before he took over as CEO.

Understandably, his untimely death came as a shock to a lot of people, including French prime minister Manuel Valls, who hailed de Margerie as an “extraordinary business leader who turned Total into a world giant.”

Even the company’s competitors voiced their shock over his unexpected passing. Lord John Browne, the former CEO of British Petroleum (BP), sent a tweet to express his sadness over de Margerie’s death, calling the Total chief a “creative, inspiring, breath of fresh air” that will be missed by the entire oil industry.

Our sincerest condolences go out to the families of Christophe de Margerie and the three crew members that lost their lives over this horrific accident.

Click past the jump to read more about Christophe de Margerie

Christophe de Margerie

Christophe de Margerie was born in Mareuil-sur-Lay, France, on August 6, 1951.

Shortly after graduating from Ecole Superieure de Commerce in Paris in 1974, de Margerie began his career with Total, initially working in the company’s Finance Department and Exploration & Production division. In 1995, he was named President of Total Middle East and shortly after that, joined the company’s Executive Committee as President of the Exploration & Production division.

In 2002, de Margerie was named President of of the Exploration & Production division, a position he held until being appointed the company’s CEO on February 2007, followed shortly by his appointment as Chairman of the company in May 2010.

De Margerie was highly regarded by his employees, who affectionately nicknamed him “Big Moustache” on account of his rather quirky facial hair.

Source: BBC News

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