Marc Rich, 'King of Oil' pardoned by Clinton, dies at 78

Wed Jun 26, 2013 5:05pm EDT
 
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By Alice Baghdjian

LUCERNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Billionaire Marc Rich, who invented modern 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 hospital from a stroke, spokesman Christian Koenig said. He is survived by two daughters and six grandchildren. A third daughter died previously of leukemia.

"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, Muammar Gaddafi'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 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."   Continued...

 
Swiss billionaire Marc Rich receives the Award Honorary Doctorates from Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv May 15, 2007. REUTERS/Gil Cohen Magen