Company: ExxonMobil Inc.
Position: The Most Powerful Business Executive in the World
Location: Irving, Texas
Job status: Full-time
Salary: $5 million to $26 million, depending on experience
Availability: Position to be filled in early 2004
About the company: ExxonMobil is the world’s largest industrial firm and the biggest private producer of oil and natural gas. Its 2002 revenues of $204 billion were greater than the gross domestic product of all but 19 of the world’s countries—a full $18 billion more than the GDP of Saudi Arabia. It has operations in 200 countries and territories, and it employs 97,000 people worldwide. The firm produces nearly 6 percent of the world’s total oil output, which is more than the nation of Kuwait. Its 2003 net income is likely to come in at more than $15 billion, making it the world’s most profitable company. And its 1999 merger with Mobil Oil was the largest industrial partnering in history, an $81 billion deal that cemented Exxon’s place as the globe’s biggest private owner of natural gas and oil reserves and the biggest nonstate energy producer. It offers a friendly, progressive, but professional work environment and discounted parking to associates.
About the job: The Most Powerful Business Executive in the World serves as chief executive officer of ExxonMobil, a position that Fortune magazine said confers on the Most Powerful “an outsized say on everything from environmental policy to human rights in the developing countries where most of the world’s new oil is being found.” BusinessWeek put it more directly, saying the Most Powerful Business Executive “is not a head of state, but the distinction is academic.”
Availability: The job will be open as soon as ExxonMobil’s current CEO, Lee Raymond, steps down. Raymond is 65 years old and is retiring after 40 years with the company, a decade of that as CEO. He is the most successful and influential CEO the firm has had since Exxon was called Standard Oil Company and was run by John D. Rockefeller.
Benefits and perks: The Most Powerful has access to the Rockefeller Room at Exxon’s world headquarters in Irving. The room has been called the most exclusive eatery in the world. It has one table, seating four—the CEO and his top lieutenants. Lunch is served each day at noon, and the menu may feature items such as butternut squash bisque or crispy striped bass. Perhaps pomme frites, too. The Most Powerful Business Executive also has a lavish office in the company’s headquarters. Said office, the center of an extensive executive suite, accessible only to a few top executives and staff who have cleared a security team armed with rifles, is known throughout the oil industry as the “God pod.”
The Most Powerful has use of the company’s fleet of aircraft, as he has to be able to drop in on other offices, which, along with the Irving headquarters, house some 5,000 pieces of art, including an extensive collection of modern masters.
The Most Powerful also enjoys exclusive access to world leaders. There is not a president, prime minister, chancellor, king, or suzerain who will not return his call. For instance, when Exxon wanted to spend $25 billion for a 25 percent stake in Yukos, Russia’s biggest energy concern, Russian President Vladimir Putin met personally with Raymond. After the meeting, Putin hinted that Moscow supported Exxon’s investment but might not support the Kyoto global warming accord. Turns out that Exxon doesn’t support the Kyoto accord, either.
The Most Powerful is also eligible for a competitive health benefits plan, including dental and vision.
Key requirements: Most Powerful candidates must—as Raymond has said is key to Exxon’s success—exhibit a dedication to “the fundamentals, such as efficiency, use of capital, employee safety.” On efficiency, for instance, when Exxon and Mobil merged in ’99, Raymond slashed 16,000 jobs, some 15 percent of the combined enterprise’s workforce. He was rewarded that year with a 50 percent boost in compensation, earning $47 million in salary, bonuses, and options.
Most Powerful candidates must have a tenacious attitude toward return on investment. The company places a premium on efficient energy exploration and considers the term “dry hole” to be vulgar. This attitude has helped it develop the best exploration technology in the business and achieve the highest return on investment in the oil industry, a cornerstone of its success. In 2002, the upstream, or exploration operations, at Exxon earned a 22.3 percent return on capital. That’s two times the industry average. As Raymond told BusinessWeek, Exxon achieves this through a commitment “to technology unmatched in the industry. If you go back to 1980 and look at what we were saying then about the year 2000, you would find that we had total energy production in the world pegged within 1 percent of what it turned out to be.”
Most Powerful candidates must ascribe to a dogged belief that alternative energy sources are not economically viable. Though large-scale competitors like British Petroleum and smaller energy outfits are moving toward more environmentally friendly energy sources, Exxon is not. As Raymond told Bloomberg TV, the company spent some $1 billion researching such alternatives, including solar and wind power, in the 1970s and ’80s, and “we concluded that the technology didn’t support the economic structure for those investments to be profitable. And I would submit that that is still the case.”
Most Powerful candidates must also show a major commitment to shareholders. Exxon has paid an increasing dividend out to its investors each year for the past two decades, a record unmatched in Corporate America.
Most Powerful candidates must also, in accordance with federal legislation, submit to a drug test.
Risks and cautions: Candidates must be willing to be at high risk from environmental terrorists, Islamic terrorists, hostile foreign governments, and all types of other ne’er-do-wells. Due to the company’s size and scope, Exxon executives have been targets of assassination attempts and kidnapping. Last year, for instance, gunmen kidnapped an engineer from a natural gas plant in Indonesia that is partly owned by Exxon. And just two years before that, Exxon temporarily pulled its workers from that plant after Indonesia’s separatist rebel group, Aceh, began targeting Exxon employees. In addition to such high risks, candidates will also face an annual performance review.
Major objectives: One, improve Exxon’s image. The Most Powerful Business Executive is expected to improve relations with environmental groups. As Exxon executive Ed Galante (an inside contender for this job) said in one recent interview, Exxon is a “very large, very successful, capitalist enterprise that is truly global but American in our parentage. There are people who would dislike any one of those things. But we are trying to help people understand our logic.” Indeed, the company has already met secretly with human rights and environmental organizations around the world. The new Most Powerful must continue and enhance this work and understand this recent statement by Frank Sprow, vice president of safety, health, and the environment (and not a contender for this job): “This is new for us, and we have been determined to listen first and not just talk.”
Two, pump more oil. The Most Powerful is expected to swell the company’s annual energy production by somewhere between 5 and 8 percent. The company’s stated goal is a 5 percent average increase in production levels between now and 2005. But in 2003, production was flat, even falling 3 percent in the third quarter.
Educational requirements: Raymond has a doctorate in chemical engineering. Most of his predecessors at Standard Oil and Exxon have had engineering backgrounds. In other words, English majors should probably save themselves the effort and look for work elsewhere.
How to apply: Qualified candidates should submit cover letter and résumé to the board of directors. References are required. Be sure to indicate you are applying for Most Powerful Business Executive in the World on both your cover letter and application packet. Applicants who fail to do so will not be considered. And, when applying, please mention that you saw this opening listed in D Magazine.
Joseph Guinto is a former White House correspondent for Investor’s Business Daily. He designed his own résumé and has no chance of being hired by Exxon.
The Insider Competition
Two men from within Exxon’s well-guarded walls are at the top of the list to replace CEO Lee Raymond.
CONTENDER: Ed Galante
JOB: Downstream, refining and chemicals.
WHO HE IS: A native of Queens, New York, Galante joined Exxon in 1972 as a marketing executive. He ran refineries in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Central America and became Raymond’s executive assistant in 1995.
WHAT GIVES HIM AN EDGE: His marketing background could help Exxon where it is weakest—making deals. The company’s continued need to find more oil and gas requires it to convince more foreign governments to allow the U.S. firm to come in and take the energy out. Doing that requires a soft touch at the negotiating table. Insiders say Galante is an expert, even if his boss, Raymond, is not.
CONTENDER: Rex Tillerson
JOB: Upstream. He finds where the oil is and figures out the most cost-effective way to pump it.
WHO HE IS: A native Texan, Tillerson joined Exxon in 1975 and has exhibited a nose for finding oil.
WHAT GIVES HIM AN EDGE: Upstream produced 80 percent of Exxon’s profits last year and is considered by many to be the key competitive asset in Exxon’s arsenal. Tillerson was also a key executive in setting up Exxon’s operations in the former Soviet Union, and Russia is now a likely source of major growth for the company.