After a long and high-profile search, it seems Donald Trump has likely settled on Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, according to three senior Trump transition officials. Tillerson, who has served as CEO of the oil company since 2006, has ample experience in international negotiations. However, he also a history of close ties to Russia, including Vladimir Putin, which could become a source of controversy during his confirmation hearings.
Here’s everything you need to know about the likely pick for secretary of state:
Name: Rex Wayne Tillerson
Age: 64 (born March 23, 1952)
Family: Married with 4 children
What he does now: Chairman/President/CEO of Exxon Mobil
What he used to do: Tillerson joined Exxon Mobil in 1975 as a production engineer. He rose through the ranks, becoming general manager in 1989, and production adviser to the Exon Corporation in 1992. In 1998, he became Vice President of Exxon Ventures and President of Exxon Neftigas Limited, where he was responsible for the company’s holdings in Russia, the Caspian Sea, and the Sakhalin. By August of 2001, he was promoted to Senior Vice President of the Exxon Mobil Corporation, and assumed his current role in 2006. Tillerson has not previously had any public sector experience.
Education: B.S., Civil Engineering, University of Texas at Austin
Relationship with Trump: Tillerson emerged as a late contender on what seemed to be an ever expanding list of potential nominees for secretary of state. He met with Trump on Tuesday, December 6, and the two reconvened for a second time on December 10. Tillerson has a history of donating to Republicans. According to FEC filings, he donated $50,000 to Romney’s Presidential Victory Fund in 2012, and gave $5000 to Right to Rise, the Superpac backing Jeb Bush, in August 2015. But his FEC records do not show any donations to Trump during the 2016 campaign.
Trump and Exxon relationship: Trump owned Exxon Mobile stock. The 2015 filing lists between $50,000-$100,000 of Exxon Mobile.
Things you might not know about him: As CEO of Exxon Mobil, he was #20 on Forbes’ Most Powerful People in 2015.
He has a strong relationship with Russia: Tillerson’s business relationship with Russia dates back to the 1990s, when he assumed responsibility for all of Exxon Mobil’s holdings there. In 2011, Exxon Mobil forged a deal with Russian oil company Rosneft, which, at that time, was 75% owned by the Russian government. The deal gave Exxon Mobil access to arctic oil deposits, and Putin attended the signing ceremony. In 2013, the two companies expanded their partnership. That same year, Tillerson received the Order of Friendship award from Vladimir Putin.
In 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea, Exxon was forced to halt the deal due to sanctions. Although Exxon Mobil put out a press release noting they were “winding down” their operations following the sanctions, Tillerson reportedly called them “ineffective” at his 2014 shareholders meeting.
“We do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively and that’s a very hard thing to do,” he allegedly said at that meeting, according to the Dallas Business Journal.
Rosneft sanctions are still included in treasury database of sanctions, per a search from ABC News.
There are already indications this relationship with Russia could raise questions at Tillerson’s confirmation hearings. In an interview on December 10, Sen. John McCain told CNN, “I have obviously concerns of reports of his relationship with Vladimir Putin who is a thug and a murderer.”
“We will have hearings on that issue and other issues concerning him will be examined,” he added.
When asked what kind of questions he would ask Tillerson, McCain responded, “His view of Vladimir Putin and his role in the world.”
Climate Change: Although Tillerson has acknowledged climate change is a problem, Exxon Mobil came under controversy at its shareholders meeting last year for rejecting resolutions that would have pushed the company’s resources towards renewable energy, according to a Washington Post article.
“We have to have some technology breakthroughs, but in the meantime, just saying ‘turn the taps off’ is not acceptable to humanity,” he said at the meeting, according to the Washington Post.
The Washington Post article also states at least five attorneys general were investigating the company’s climate change policies as of Spring 2016, including NY AG Eric Schneiderman who oversaw the Trump U lawsuit.
Tillerson’s likely selection has already drawn the ire of environmental groups like Sierra Club and Greenpeace.
“At a time when the climate crisis is deepening, both the United States and the world deserve much better than having one of the planet’s top fossil fuel tycoons run U.S. foreign policy,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune wrote in a statement.