The Chief Executive of French oil major Total, Christophe de Margerie, was killed in an airplane collision with a snowplow at Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport, airport spokeswoman Elena Krylova said today.
"Tonight, a plane crashed when it collided with a snow-clearing machine. Three crew members and a passenger died. I can confirm that the passenger was Total's head de Margerie," she said.
The collision occurred during takeoff of the Dassault Falcon business jet in which de Margerie was a passenger late on Monday, just minutes before midnight Moscow time, an airport statement said. The plane was due to travel to Paris.
De Margerie was on a list of attendees at a Russian government meeting on foreign investment in Gorki, near Moscow, on Monday.
De Margerie, 63, a graduate of the Ecole Superieure de Commerce business school in Paris, became Chief Executive Officer of Total in February 2007, taking on the additional role of chairman in May 2010, after previously running its exploration and production division.
Total SA is France's second-biggest listed company with a market value of 102 billion Euros and the West's fourth biggest oil and gas group. The company cut its 2017 oil output goal last month and said it would step up asset sales and overhaul exploration.
Like other big oil companies, Total has been under pressure from shareholders to cut costs and raise dividends as rising costs in the industry and weaker oil prices squeeze profitability.
De Margerie said in July that he should be judged based on new projects launched under his watch, such as a string of African fields. He also said then that Total would seek a successor from within the company rather than an outsider.
Total is one of the top foreign investors in Russia, but its future there grew cloudy after the July 17 downing of a Malaysian passenger airliner over Ukrainian territory held by pro-Russian rebels worsened the oil-rich country's relations with the West and raised the threat of deeper sanctions.
Total said last month that sanctions would not stop it working on the Yamal project - a $27 billion joint venture investment to tap vast natural gas reserves in northwest Siberia that aims to double Russia's stake in the fast-growing market for liquefied natural gas. De Margerie said then that Europe could not live without Russian gas, adding that there was no reason to do so.