NEW BOSS AT STATE DEPARTMENT: Secretary of State designate Rex Tillerson, the outgoing Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson (left) with Russian President Vladimir Putin (right)

Rex Tillerson, the man nominated by US President-elect Donald Trump to be Secretary of State, runs the world’s most valuable, publicly traded oil company.

The 64-year-old, Texas-born head of Exxon Mobil has worked for the company in the US, Yemen and Russia, and is known for his close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin gave the Texan an Order of Friendship award in 2013.

In an interview, Republican Senator of Arizona John McCain expressed ‘concern’ about Mr Tillerson’s links to Mr Putin, whom the senator called ‘a thug, a bully and a murderer’.

Democrats have also questioned Mr Tillerson’s suitability and the process to have his nomination confirmed by the Senate may not run smoothly.

Mr Tillerson has spent his entire career, more than 40 years, working for Exxon. He joined the company as a production engineer, fresh from University of Texas, Austin, and worked his way up to take the top job in 2006. He had been expected to retire next year.

Mr Trump’s transitional team said Mr Tillerson would be ‘a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests’.

It added he would ‘help reverse years of misguided foreign policies and actions that have weakened’ the country’s global standing.

Mr Tillerson said he shared Mr Trump’s vision ‘for restoring the credibility of the United States’ foreign relations and advancing our country’s national security’.

Russian ties

During his time at Exxon, Mr Tillerson has forged multibillion-dollar deals with Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft.

He is also known to be a friend of Igor Sechin, Rosneft’s executive chairman who was formerly Mr Putin’s deputy prime minister. Mr Sechin has been called Russia’s second most powerful man.

Mr Tillerson has spoken out against international sanctions placed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea.

In 2014, Exxon filed a report saying the US government and European Union’s sanctions cost the company a maximum of US$1bn (£790m) in damage to joint ventures.

Mr Tillerson is known to be a supporter of free trade, whereas President-elect Trump has heavily criticised the US’s existing agreements.

Republican donor

Exxon, which has about 75,000 employees around the world, has been accused of trying to cover up the risks of climate change and lying to the public

Mr Tillerson accepts climate change is real and has spoken of ‘catastrophic’ consequences if it were left unchecked.

He is committed to the continued use of fossil fuels but open to the idea of a carbon tax.

“The world is going to have to continue using fossil fuels, whether they like it or not,” he said in May.

Mr Tillerson has made multiple large donations to the Republican Party. The Washington Post has reported that he initially supported, and funded Jeb Bush as the party’s presidential nominee.

As a youth, he was a high-achieving scout and served as president of the Boy Scouts of America from 2010 to 2012.

It was during his presidency that the organization voted to welcome openly gay members although a ban on openly gay adult scout leaders remained in place until 2015.

Mr Tillerson is also a former director of the United Negro College Fund, a US organisation that funds scholarships for black students and supports historically black colleges and universities.

 

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