During five years in the French Foreign Legion, Glencore International Chairman Simon Murray was sent on missions ranging from death defying to merely gruesome. ¶ Dispatched to rescue trapped comrades encircled by Algerian independence fighters in the Aures Mountains in 1961, Murray survived an ambush in which the Legionnaire beside him died in a hail of machine gun bullets. ¶ After another battle, Murray was ordered to stuff the severed heads of two enemy soldiers into his pack and carry them back to base for identification, blood dripping down his back. When he quit the Legion in 1965 with the rank of senior corporal, British-born, Hong Kong-based Murray didn’t leave his combativeness behind. He has headed Deutsche Bank in Asia and been taipan — Cantonese for “big boss” — of billionaire Li Ka-shing’s business empire. At age 63, he became the oldest man to reach the South Pole unaided, on a 58-day slog during which he lost 50 pounds.
“Simon is one of the most extraordinary characters I have met,” says Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust and the last colonial governor of Hong Kong before the British ceded it to the Chinese in 1997. “He is brave, outspoken, funny and pushes himself to almost crazy lengths.”