Exxon Mobil Chief to Leave

By Justin Blum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 5, 2005

The chief executive of Exxon Mobil Corp. will step down at the end of the year from the world's largest publicly traded oil company after a tenure marked by record profits and environmental controversy.

Lee R. Raymond, 66, a career Exxon employee who has held the top job for 12 years, is likely to be succeeded by the company's president, Rex W. Tillerson, 53, according to an Exxon statement.

Raymond presided over a company that analysts view as the most efficient in the business, earning better returns on the money it spends than its rivals. But under Raymond's leadership, Exxon has become the top target of environmental groups that complain that the company has helped block mandatory limits on emissions linked to global warming and has lobbied to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

The company also became known for taking a hard line. It does not cave in to interest groups, scientists or activist shareholders -- even if its position appears politically incorrect or out of sync with rivals. For example, Exxon questions whether fossil-fuel emissions are the primary cause of climate change, defying a growing scientific consensus, and it has stayed out of the wind and solar power business, citing inadequate profit.

"They're one of the best-managed companies in the industry," said Mike R. Bowlin, the former chief executive of oil company Atlantic Richfield Co., which merged with BP PLC in 2000. "The company travels to the beat of its own drummer. They don't bend much from outside influences -- Wall Street, analysts, the political environment."

Tillerson joined the company 30 years ago as a production engineer and gradually moved into top leadership jobs. While he has toed the company line, environmentalists said they hoped he would be more friendly than Raymond to their concerns. Analysts said they expect no significant change in the company's direction. An Exxon spokesman, Tom Cirigliano, said neither Raymond nor Tillerson would comment yesterday.

Raymond stayed past his planned retirement at the request of the company's board of directors, which increased his total compensation last year to $38.1 million. Analysts said one of Raymond's top achievements was overseeing Exxon's acquisition of Fairfax County-based Mobil Corp. in 1999, a deal valued at more than $80 billion.

As leader of Exxon, one of the successor companies to John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil, Raymond never became a household name. But he is celebrated in industry circles. The Economist magazine said that based on financial performance alone, "Raymond could claim to be the most successful oil boss since Rockefeller."

As oil prices have surged in the past year, Exxon has been among the biggest beneficiaries. Its profit last year was $25.3 billion, a record. For the first half of 2005, its profit was about $15 billion. Analysts described Exxon as an efficient, profit-obsessed cash gusher.

While Exxon may be best known to consumers for its gasoline, it makes most of its money from producing and selling oil and natural gas. Exxon's other major operations -- refining and chemical businesses -- have been booming as well.

The company, with 86,000 employees, operates in more than 200 countries or territories -- as diverse as Equatorial Guinea, Venezuela and the Russian Far East. The company has 2,600 employees in Fairfax County, where executives oversee refining and marketing operations.

While rival companies such as BP and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have waged big public relations campaigns to depict themselves as environmentally conscious, Exxon has shied away from creating a similar public persona, analysts said.

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Exxon Mobil Corp. surpassed General Electric Co. earlier this year to become the largest U.S. corporation by stock market value.
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SOURCES: Bloomberg, Fortune 500 | THE WASHINGTON POST
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