The death of Christophe de Margerie, the chief executive of the oil multinational Total, in a tragic plane accident in Moscow has been widely reported in the media.
But much less reported about his death was the fact that the man often referred to affectionately as the Big Moustache because of his facial hair and big personality was also a third generation heir to the Taittinger champagne business.
De Margerie was the grandson of Pierre-Charles Taittinger, the founder of the famous champagne house that bears the family’s name.
But instead of joining the family business, de Margerie pursued a career with Total, which today is the fourth largest western oil company in terms of market capitalisation and the second-largest French company. He became one of France’s top paid and most highly respected business people.
Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger, the current head of the champagne house once wistfully said about de Margerie: “Il aurait pu être le roi du brut champagne il a choisi à la place d’être le roi du brut pétrole.”
Roughly translated: “He could have been the king of dry (brut) champagne, but he chose instead to be the king of crude (brut) oil.”
Taittinger along with a number of other holdings held by the family including the Hotel de Crillon in Paris was sold to a private equity firm in 2005. A year later, Pierre-Emmanuel raised funds to buy the champagne house back into family ownership.