John Hinderaker at Power Line posted an article yesterday about Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. I have to say that after reading the article, I like Rex Tillerson’s style. The story that follows is an example of quietly outsmarting someone who tries to take advantage of you.
The article quotes a Washington Post story that details what happened shortly after Tillerson became CEO of ExxonMobil. Hugo Chavez needed money and demanded more of the profits of the western oil companies in Venezuela. All of the companies agreed except ExxonMobil.
The Washington Post reports what happened next:
Chavez responded by nationalizing ExxonMobil’s considerable assets in the country, which the company valued at $10 billion. The losses were a big blow to Tillerson, who reportedly took the seizure as a personal affront.
Only Tillerson didn’t get mad, at least in public. He got even.
In the deep blue waters 120 miles off Guyana’s coast, the company scored a major oil discovery: as much as 1.4 billion barrels of high-quality crude. Tillerson told company shareholders the well, Liza-1, was the largest oil find anywhere in the world that year.
For tiny Guyana (population 800,000), the continent’s only English-speaking country and one of its poorest, it was a fortune-changing event, certain to mark a “before and after” in a country long isolated by language and geography.
The Stabroek block where ExxonMobil and its partners struck oil is off the coast of a patch of wild South American jungle known as the Essequibo territory. Venezuela and Guyana have haggled over it with oscillating levels of vehemence for more than 100 years. Amounting to two-thirds of Guyana’s surface area, it is, by any practical measure, a part of Guyana and populated by Guyanese people, albeit sparsely.
But Venezuelan claims on the land have long kept foreign investors out. In 2013, a research vessel exploring the area for U.S.-based Anadarko was intercepted by a Venezuelan warship, which temporarily detained the 36-member crew. It was a warning to other companies thinking of partnering with Guyana. Tillerson’s ExxonMobil went ahead anyway.
Maduro ordered military exercises along the border, appealed to the United Nations to intervene, and cast his country as a victim of “imperialist” aggression.
But Maduro was boxed in. Tillerson had taken him to school. And he was just getting warmed up. The company has moved quickly to drill more wells since then, racking up new discoveries in the area.
Think about it. Tillerson refused the wishes of a bully, elevated a more reasonable government in a South America country without violence, and made a profit. I like his style.