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Commodity Giant Trafigura Founder, Top Shareholder Claude Dauphin Has Died

In a tragic, if very odd coincidence, a day after we postulated that the real "commodity-trader" risk may not be Glencore after all, but its just as vast, if even more levered competitor, Trafigura, moments ago the privately-held company (with publicly traded bonds), announced that its founder and biggest shareholder, french billionaire Claude Dauphin has died at the age of 64.

From the press release:

It is with great sadness and regret we have to announce that Trafigura’s Founder and Executive Chairman, Claude Dauphin, passed away peacefully in the early hours of this morning in a hospital in Bogota, Colombia after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

 

Claude Dauphin (64) has been a leading figure in the global commodities trading industry for more than three decades. He founded Trafigura together with five partners in 1993, and as Chairman and CEO built the company into its current position as one of the world’s leading traders of oil, metals and minerals.

 

“Claude will be greatly missed by his family, friends, and vast network of business partners, as well as by us all,” said Jeremy Weir, CEO Trafigura. “We owe him an enormous debt of gratitude for a career full of achievement and entrepreneurial endeavour and for his energy, inspirational leadership, generosity of spirit, humility and humour.”

 

Our deepest condolences go to his wife and children.

His bio from the Trafigura Board web page:

Claude Dauphin has been a leading figure in the global commodities trading industry for more than three decades. He founded Trafigura together with five partners in 1993, and as Chairman and CEO built the company into its current position as one of the world’s three largest independent traders of oil and metals and minerals. In March 2014, he became Trafigura’s Executive Chairman.

 

Before founding Trafigura, Claude Dauphin worked for Marc Rich AG as Petroleum Division Head and Executive Committee Member (1988-1992), Head of the Lead and Zinc Department and Country Manager in Bolivia (1977-1988). He is the last of Trafigura's six founding partners to occupy an executive role with the company.

Dauphin's bio from Wikipedia:

Dauphin worked for nearly 22 years as an oil executive at Victoria Trading Services (UK) Ltd. In 1990, at the age of 39, he assumed his first directorship. The following year he became a director at A.O.I. (UK) Ltd. He moved to Marc Rich & Co. (now Glencore) from 1991 to 1992. In 1993 Dauphin and several other senior traders at Marc Rich founded Trafigura.

 

Trafigura is known for its role in the 2006 Ivory Coast toxic waste dump environmental disaster. Dauphin and four others were imprisoned in Ivory Coast for five months on charges of dumping toxic waste; afterward they were released and all charges were dropped. While Trafigura denied responsibility and culpability, it paid €1.3 million in an out-of-court settlement.

 

Dauphin communicates with lenders and bondholders in the company’s annual report, but does not speak publically. He is married and has three children.

And some more on the highly secretive Dauphin from the Telegraph:

Little is known about Mr Dauphin, except that he was previously a senior trader for secretive commodities firm Marc Rich & Co, which later became Switzerland-based Glencore.

 

However, Mr Dauphin hit the headlines in 2006 when he was arrested with four colleagues and spent five months in jail in Ivory Coast on charges related to the toxic waste. He was later released and the authorities dropped all allegations of wrongdoing. In a statement, Mr Dauphin described it as “a terrible ordeal... [to spend] five months in jail as innocent men”.

 

The oil trader settled out of court over the toxic waste last September by giving 31,000 Ivory Coast residents £30m, without admitting any liability for the “slops” that ended up in their country in 2006.

Our condolences go to his friends and family, even as our eyes are following the impact of this news on Trafigura's bonds.