Son of the circus thrives as crude-oil traffic cop

Mon Jun 6, 2016 9:07pm EDT
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By Jarrett Renshaw

HOUSTON (Reuters) - The rows of traders who line the massive trading floor at Mercuria Energy Group's Houston headquarters rely on a string of modern conveniences to execute deals across the globe. But when they're under the gun to deliver oil fast, they call one person: Tim Holan.

That's because Holan, the head of logistics for the trading firm, cut his teeth on moving an even heavier cargo: elephants.

They, along with lions, clowns and other performers were part of the mile-long moving city that Holan spent nearly two decades shuttling around the country as logistics manager for the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Unruly animals, however well-trained, have a way of making the shipping of thousands of barrels of crude oil every day seem a bit less hectic.

"Crude oil is easier," Holan said. “There is a specific infrastructure built for oil with the idea that there would be repeat business. With the circus, there's always one-off moves and unpredictability.”

Holan's own journey, which includes stints removing radioactive dirt from nuclear facilities and coordinating helicopters for airlifts after Hurricane Katrina, began in 1977, when at the age of 14 he ran away from his Pittsburgh-area home.

He got a job sweeping out the trains at Ringling Bros in California, lying about his age on his application to secure work.

"It was a different era," said Holan, who is now 53. "Everyone knew I lied about my age, and that would never happen now. Looking at it now, I mean, what was I thinking, but at 14 it just seemed like a big adventure."   Continued...

Tim Holan, 53, who once headed logistics for Ringling Brothers Circus and is now head of North America logistics for Mercuria Energy Group, poses in his office in New York, New York, U.S. May 3, 2016.     REUTERS/Jarrett Renshaw