Jean Riboud; Resistance Fighter, Oil Firm Leader

From Times Wire Services

Jean Riboud, a French Resistance fighter who survived Buchenwald to become a legendary oil industry executive, has died of cancer, Schlumberger Ltd. said Monday. He was 65.

Riboud had stepped down as Schlumberger chairman Sept. 11 after his condition worsened. He had been company chief executive for more than 20 years and was responsible for building it into the world's leading oil field services business.

Under Riboud, who died Sunday at his Paris home, Schlumberger was often praised as being one of the best-managed businesses in the world. During his tenure, profits soared almost 44 times to $1.18 billion and revenue increased 20 times to $6.37 billion. Schlumberger is one of the world's largest offshore drilling contractors. It also has interests in other fields, including semiconductors.

Riboud was described in a 1983 profile in the New Yorker magazine as a "man of contrasts" who called himself a socialist but headed one of the world's largest corporations. The article said his closest friends were artists and writers, and said he was a stranger to most other top corporate executives.

He was a longtime friend of French President Francois Mitterrand, a Socialist, and a shareholder in the leftist French newspaper Liberation. Riboud was a member of the French Resistance during World War II and survived two years in Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp.

He joined the company in 1951 as an assistant to a founder, Marcel Schlumberger. He was elected president and chief executive in 1965 and chairman in 1972.

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