Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of Total, a major Formula 1 sponsor, has been killed when the company’s Dassault Falcon collided with a snow plough as it was taking off from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on Monday night. The accident happened just before midnight and the Russian authorities say that the driver of the snow plough was drunk. A criminal investigation has been launched into the crash, with also killed the three crew members on the plane. There were no problems with visibility at the time. De Margarie (63), a grandson of champagne magnate Pierre Taittinger, joined Total in 1974 and was named CEO in 2007 and chairman since 2010. He had been in Russia for a meeting with the government about foreign investment.
“France has lost an extraordinary business leader who turned Total into a world leader,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement.
“The word ‘legend’ is often over-used, but in the case of Christophe de Margerie it is entirely appropriate,” said McLaren’s Eric Boullier. “Christophe was not only a great man but also a great friend. More than that, in fact, I wholeheartedly admired him. A wise, bold, determined and charismatic personality, and a proud Frenchman, he led Total from the front, and, from a Formula 1 point of view, he it was who steered his company’s Formula 1 involvement in recent years.”
Total is a sponsor of the Infiniti Red Bull Racing Team and of Romain Grosjean at Lotus F1. The company and its predecessors have been involved in Grand Prix racing since 1968 when Elf first became involved and was a long-time partner of Renault from 1977 onwards. The Renault F1 cars carried Elf sponsorship until 2008 when the brand was a changed to Total.