Ian Taylor, who helped build Vitol into the world's biggest oil trader, will step down as chief executive and continue as chairman, the company said on Friday, naming a long-time ally and insider, Russell Hardy, as the new group CEO.
Taylor said two years ago he was battling cancer although he continued to travel the world, chasing deals from Africa to the United States and Australia while also working as chairman of the board of trustees for London's Royal Opera House.
Hardy, who started his career at BP and traded fuel oil, was long seen as one of two front-runners to succeed Taylor alongside another Vitol veteran Chris Bake.
Vitol said in a statement that Hardy joined the firm in 1993 and held a number of trading and management roles in Singapore and London. He has been a member of Vitol's executive committee since 2007 and was named CEO of the Europe, Middle-East and Africa region in 2017. He has a Master of Engineering from Imperial College, London.
An Oxford graduate, Taylor began his career at Shell in 1978 working in South America and southeast Asia. He joined Vitol in 1985 and became group President and CEO in 1995.
Taylor turned the modest Dutch fuel dealer into a global giant that poached top talent from majors such as BP and Shell and ultimately became their biggest trading competitor.
Taylor executed dozens of deals with countries viewed a politically risky by lending money to governments in exchange for oil in places ranging from Iraq's Kurdish region and Nigeria to Kazakhstan, and most recently OPEC member Algeria.
Vitol also played a key role during the 2011 uprising that toppled Libya's Muammar Ghaddafi by providing fuel to rebel groups, supported by Britain and its allies, to be later repaid with crude cargoes.
For many years, Taylor has also been one of the most active donors of the Conservative party.
The company's ability and appetite for deals with elevated political risks has often brought challenges -- in 2012 Vitol admitted it was trading Iranian fuel oil despite international sanctions. It pledged to stop dealing with the material.
After international sanctions on Iran were lifted, Vitol agreed a major oil-backed loan with Tehran.
Trading over 7 million barrels of oil per day, Vitol remains a privately held company and is a sought-after place to work. In a good year, traders receive huge compensation amounting to millions of dollars per trader, according to insiders.
The company paid over $6 billion in dividends to its staff between 2010 and 2016.
Taylor has previously said there was no plan to turn Vitol into a public company but this year the firm will launch initial public offerings for two of its downstream joint-venture subsidiaries -- Vivo Energy and Varo Energy.
(Editing by Susan Fenton and David Evans)