Senior Executives Flee Russian Oil Giant Rosneft

Russia’s state-owned oil giant Rosneft Oil Co.

ROSN 2.86%

is firing senior executives, a brain drain that could undermine a key driver of the country’s economy while Moscow goes to war with Ukraine.

The two most senior levels of CEO Igor Sechin, first vice presidents Didier Casimiro and Zeljko Runje, will leave the company, people familiar with the departure said. The withdrawal means that Mr. Sechin, a longtime associate of President Vladimir Putin, will have to navigate the crisis in the Russian oil market without his most experienced deputies.

Some of the departures included Otabek Karimov, vice president of commerce and logistics, and Eric Liron, vice president of oil and gas services, several people said. Avril Conroy, head of retail operations, has left the company.

All the praise from outside Russia, underscoring how Rosneft relied on overseas expertise to grow into one of the world’s largest oil producers — and war threatens to reverse that expansion. how. Foreign executives brought the know-how of Western production techniques and business practices. They helped Rosneft endearing to foreign investors who owned its shares and lent it money. And they have increased their links with major American and European energy companies that have collaborated with Rosneft on projects in Russia and abroad.

The company lost money when private producers exploited Russia’s top oil assets in the 1990s but fought back and now plays an important role in the Russian economy and global energy markets. . A government-owned company holds more than 40% of the shares in Rosneft, and it describes itself as the largest taxpayer in Russia. According to its annual report, the country will produce 3.9 million barrels of liquid hydrocarbons per day by 2021, enough to meet 4% of global oil demand.

Mr. Casimiro responded to an email request for comment with an excerpt from Oscar Wilde’s poem “The Reading Gaol Ballad.” The stanza describes two deadly ships passing by in a storm and not recognizing each other, with a line reading, “We have no more words to say.”

Mr Runje, Mr Liron, Ms Conroy and Mr Karimov did not respond to requests for comment. A Rosneft spokesman said he was not aware of the departures. The departures were previously reported by Reuters.

According to one of the people familiar with the matter, the timing of the troop departures could be related to European Union sanctions. A ban on some contracts with a number of Russian state-owned companies, including Rosneft, come into effect on May 15. Whether this applies to employment contracts is unclear. The person said it is also considered less acceptable by the Kremlin to include citizens of countries that have imposed sanctions against Russia in the ranks of executives at state-owned companies.

Otabek Karimov, from Uzbekistan, was Rosneft’s vice president of trade and logistics.


Sorokin Donat / Zuma Press

Rosneft has been under pressure since the invasion. According to traders, private analysts and the International Energy Agency, oil reserves in Russia are filling up and production is falling due to reduced domestic and foreign demand. State-owned Rosneft and Gazprom PJSC face the long-term challenge of finding alternatives to Western technologies whose governments have stopped exporting companies to the Russian energy sector.

An art collector in his spare time, Mr. Casimiro was born in 1966 from Belgium. He held senior positions at BP PLC in the 1990s and 2000s before moving to TNK-BP, a British joint venture with a group of Russian entrepreneurs. He joined Rosneft in 2012, according to the company’s 2020 annual report, before the company bought TNK-BP in 2013.

Since then, Mr. Casimiro has repeatedly oversaw trade, logistics, refining and petrochemicals. After being named the first vice president in 2020, Mr. Casimiro acted as chief financial officer almost as much as chief financial officer, one of the people said.

Mr. Casimiro’s position complicated: He has been subject to US sanctions since 2020, when Treasury Department targeted Rosneft transaction activities in Venezuela. He was chairman of Rosneft Trading SA, its Swiss trading subsidiary, at the time, according to the US government.

Mr. Casimiro was caught up in international social media again shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine. At the end of March, the UK froze its assets in a round of sanctions targeting other senior figures in Russia’s energy and financial sectors along with companies such as Alfa-Bank JSC.

Mr. Runje joined Rosneft in 2012 after working at Exxon Mobil Corp. As first vice president of oil and gas development and foreign business, he is in charge of the company’s upstream production operations. Britain was also sanctioned by the UK in March.

Mr. Liron is a French national, used to work for the US listed Schlumberger Ltd oilfield services company..

, before joining Rosneft around the time it took over TNK-BP. Ms. Conroy is Irish and has worked for BP and Rosneft in Russia since 1998.

Mr. Karimov is from Uzbekistan.


Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin will have to navigate the crisis in the Russian oil market without his most experienced deputies after the executives leave.



Write to Anna Hirtenstein at and Joe Wallace at

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