Christophe de Margerie, the charismatic and outspoken chief executive of the French oil company Total, was killed when his private jet hit a snow plough as it was taking off from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on Monday night.
His death leaves a void at the top of one of the world’s biggest listed oil firms at a difficult time for the industry as oil prices fall and state-backed competitors keep them out of some of the best oil exploration territory.
De Margerie, 63, was a strong opponent of Western economic sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine, and had been attending a meeting on foreign investment with around 30 other foreign executives at Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s country residence in Gorki near Moscow.
The crash occurred around midnight Moscow time as his Dassault Falcon was taking off for Paris in poor visibility. The plane’s three crew were also killed, but television footage showed the snowplough driver seemingly unhurt.