French oil company Total moved quickly to appoint replacements for its Chairman and chief executive Christophe de Margerie less than 48 hours after his untimely death in a plane crash in Moscow.
The two roles have been split for now with former CEO Thierry Desmarest becoming non-executive chairman while the new chief executive will be Patrick Pouyanne, who has been in charge of refining and petrochemicals at Total.
The company said Pouyanne will assume both jobs at the end of next year.
He has been strongly involved in Total’s efforts to cut costs by selling assets and streamlining operations, as like other energy firms it has responded to overcapacity amid the economic downturn in Europe.
The new bosses have a tough time ahead as rising development costs have pulled down turnover at France’s largest oil producer with profits reduced by 20 percent last year, a trend which continued into the early part of 2014 .
Pouyanne, a company veteran, takes over the day to day running at a difficult time as crude oil prices have fallen substantially and returns from refining oil are weak.
Desmarest, 68, headed the group during the mergers of Total with Petrofina and then Elf in 1999.
“A Desmarest/Pouyanne tandem would combine experience and expertise,” said Christian Jimenez, a fund manager at Diamant Bleu-Gestion, which owns Total shares.
“It’s a quasi-ideal configuration, at least for the next few years until we have seen whether Pouyanne displays any talent as a strategist.”