News / USA

Marc Rich, 'King of Oil' Pardoned by Clinton, Dies at 78

Undated photo provided by the Marc Rich Group on June 26, 2013, shows Marc Rich, founder of Glencore, who has died at the age of 78.
Undated photo provided by the Marc Rich Group on June 26, 2013, shows Marc Rich, founder of Glencore, who has died at the age of 78.
Reuters
Billionaire Marc Rich, who invented oil trading and was pardoned by President Bill Clinton over tax evasion, racketeering and busting sanctions with Iran, died on Wednesday in Switzerland aged 78.
 
Rich fled the Holocaust with his parents for America to become the most successful and controversial trader of his time and a fugitive from U.S. justice, enjoying decades of comfortable privacy at his sprawling Villa Rosa on Lake Lucerne.
 
Belgian-born Rich, whose trading group eventually became the global commodities powerhouse Glencore Xstrata, died in the hospital from a stroke, spokesman Christian Koenig said.
 
At the cream-painted, red-roofed villa, with views of the nearby mountains and grounds sloping down to the banks of the lake, security guards and other staff could be seen but there was no sign of family members.
 
“He will be brought to Israel for burial,” Avner Azulay, managing director of the Marc Rich Foundation, said by telephone. Rich will be buried on Thursday at Kibbutz Einat cemetery near Tel Aviv.
 
Many of the biggest players in oil and metals trading trace their roots back to the swashbuckling Rich, whose triumph in the 1970s was to pioneer a spot market for crude oil, wresting business away from the world's big oil groups.
 
To his critics, he was a white-collar criminal, a serial sanctions breaker, whom they accused of building a fortune trading with revolutionary Iran, Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, apartheid-era South Africa, Nicolae Ceausescu's Romania, Fidel Castro's Cuba and Augusto Pinochet's Chile.
 
In interviews with journalist Daniel Ammann for his biography, “The King of Oil”, the normally obsessively secretive Rich admitted to bribing officials in countries such as Nigeria and to assisting the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad.
 
Explaining Rich's route to riches in an interview with Reuters in 2010, Ammann said, “He was faster and more aggressive than his competitors. He was able to recognize trends and seize opportunities before other traders. And he went where others feared to tread - geographically and morally.”
 
A U.S. government web site once described Rich more simply, as “a white male, 177 centimeters in height...wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Marshall Service.” In 1983, he was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list indicted for tax evasion, fraud and racketeering. At the time, it was the biggest tax evasion case in U.S. history.
 
Rich, who valued trust, loyalty, secrecy and persistence, always insisted he did nothing illegal and among those who lobbied Clinton on his behalf for his pardon were Israeli political heavyweights Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres.
 
On learning of the indictment plans, Rich fled to Switzerland to escape the charges, which included exploiting the U.S. embargo against Iran, while it was holding U.S. hostages, to make huge profits on illicit Iranian oil sales.
 
“Marc Rich is to asset concealment what Babe Ruth was to baseball,” said Arthur J. Roth, New York state commissioner of taxation and finance.
 
He remained under threat of a life sentence in a U.S. jail until Clinton pardoned him during the last chaotic days of his presidency, a move that provoked moral outrage and bewilderment amongst some politicians.
 
Clinton later said he regretted granting the pardon, calling it “terrible politics.”
 
“It wasn't worth the damage to my reputation,” he told Newsweek magazine in 2002.
 
Rudolph Giuliani, a former New York mayor and a prosecutor on the Rich case, said: “I'm shocked that the president of the United States would pardon him.”
 
Clinton said the fact that Rich's ex-wife, Denise, had donated funds for his presidential library was not a factor, but he had acted partly in response to a request from Israel.
 
In one biography, “Metal Men: Marc Rich and the 10-billion-dollar Scam,” author A. Craig Copetas described Rich as “a beautifully sinister executive who could frame deals with the artistry of a pool shark”.
 
Rich inherited his business acumen from his father, who became a millionaire by setting up an agricultural trading firm after emigrating to the United States.
 
Rich, who was born Marcell David Reich in Antwerp on Dec. 18, 1934, started his career at Philipp Brothers, a top global commodities trader after World War II.
 
Posted to Madrid in the late 1960s, he found ways to bypass the “Seven Sisters” major oil companies which controlled world oil supplies, and is credited with inventing spot oil trading, which involves sale or purchase for immediate delivery.
 
While at Phibro, Rich foresaw the huge price increases imposed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in 1973, earning big profits for the firm. However, he became infuriated by his pay and trading strictures.
 
He left in 1974 with a fellow graduate of the Phibro mailroom, Pincus “Pinky” Green, and set up Marc Rich and Co AG in Switzerland, a firm that would eventually become Glencore Xstrata Plc.
 
His aim, according to Copetas, was “to grind Philipp Bros. into oblivion,” and he poured all his anger and ambition as well as his charm and gracious client demeanor into the new venture.
 
It became a highly successful trading firm and a much feared adversary in energy, metals, minerals, grains and sugar markets.
 
Rich later sold that company, which became Glencore International AG, and set up the Marc Rich Group. Rich was known for charitable donations through his Doron Foundation and to Zurich's Jewish community.
 
Glencore Xstrata Chief Executive Ivan Glasenberg said, “He was a friend and one of the great pioneers of the commodities trading industry, founding the company that became Glencore.”
 
As well as his villa on the Swiss lake, Rich maintained houses in Marbella in Spain and in Israel.
 
Rich described himself as a keen tennis player, skier, alpinist and patron of the arts. Those who knew him said in private Rich was calm and charming with a sense of humor.
 
In later years, Rich's fortune dwindled after his property portfolio was hit by the Spanish housing crisis.
 
“I invested a lot of money there and because of the crisis also lost a lot, at least on paper,” he told Swiss economic magazine Bilanz. Forbes put his wealth at $2.5 billion.
 
Rich told one magazine that he had a “strange feeling” about an investment with financier Bernard Madoff and “got out with everything,” although he said he lost some money through “indirect participation”.
 
Rich once told Fortune magazine he was a normal person with an image problem. “I've been portrayed in a horrible way,” he said, “as a workaholic, a loner, a money machine. It's not a true picture.”
 
Ken Hill, a U.S. Marshall who hunted Rich around the world for more than a decade, once said Rich profited from greed.
 
“The smoking gun is greed,” he said. “This is what Marc thrived on - the greed of those who had commodities and were in positions of influence and power.”

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs