Claude Dauphin (businessman)

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Claude Dauphin
Claude Dauphin, CEO Trafigura.jpg
Born(1951-06-10)10 June 1951
Houlgate, France
Died30 September 2015(2015-09-30) (aged 64)
Bogotá, Colombia
OccupationExecutive chairman of Trafigura Beheer BV
Known forBillionaire commodities trader

Claude Dauphin (10 June 1951 – 30 September 2015) was a French billionaire businessman and executive chairman of Trafigura Beheer BV, a company specialising in commodity trading (oil, metals, ores). In addition to being one of the company's founding partners, Dauphin had previously served as Trafigura's chairman and CEO.[1] In March 2013 his net wealth was estimated at $1 billion by Forbes.[2] Dauphin died from cancer in a hospital in a Barrancabermeja , Colombia hospital at the age of 64[3] after a two-year struggle with lung cancer.[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Claude Dauphin was born on 10 June 1951 in Houlgate, Normandy in northern France. He went to school at the Ecole St. Laurent in Bayeux, leaving at 16 to work for his father’s scrap metal business in Rocquancourt before moving to Paris to join the London Metal Exchange brokerage Brandeis Goldschmidt as a ferro-alloys trader.[6]


In 1977, he met Felix Posen, head of non-ferrous trading at the commodities trading firm Marc Rich + Co. Posen hired him to work at Marc Rich, where Dauphin's first post was in La Paz as country manager for Bolivia.[7]

He moved to New York and subsequently Zug, Switzerland to take up positions as head of zinc and lead trading. In 1988, Dauphin joined the executive committee as head of the petroleum trading division in London.[8]

In 1992, as a result of the controversy surrounding Marc Rich and his indictments in the United States,[9] Dauphin left the company following his father’s death. He took over management of the family firm, which he renamed and grew to become international waste management company Ecore. He remained closely involved with the family business for the remainder of his life.[6]

In early 1993, Dauphin formed a partnership with five senior Marc Rich employees who had left the company, which was bought out by senior managers and renamed Glencore.

In March of that year, he acquired an existing shell business based in the Netherlands, Trafigura Beheer B.V., to form a rival commodities trading firm. In its first year of business Trafigura set up a profitable oil trading book and won oil contracts in Argentina.[6] The company also profited as a supplier of raw materials[10] to China, growing to become the third largest global oil trader.

In 2000 Trafigura acquired Puma Energy, a Latin American mid- and downstream company which subsequently expanded and by 2014 operated from 45 countries and had revenues of $13.4 billion. By that time, Trafigura had brought in Sonangol as a 30% shareholder in Puma, and had also reduced its own stake to 49%.[6]

Dauphin never took Trafigura public, believing private company status was the best model for a trading firm.[11]

Trafigura’s revenue rose tenfold in the period from 2005 to 2014 to reach $127 billion.[8]

In his leadership position with the company, Dauphin was an important figure in Trafigura's response to the 2006 Ivory Coast toxic waste dump environmental disaster. After local contracting company Tommy dumped 500 tonnes of waste at landfill sites around the port of Abidjan, Dauphin led a Trafigura delegation to Ivory Coast to assist the authorities and provide medical support and equipment.[6] He and four others were arrested and imprisoned in the city's Maca Prison for five months on charges of dumping toxic waste. Dauphin and fellow executive Jean-Pierre Valentini were attacked on multiple occasions by gangs of "up to 100" young prisoners at the jail.[12][13] Trafigura denied responsibility and culpability for the dumping incident but, with the executives still in custody, agreed to pay $198 million[14] in order to secure the release[15] of its employees on February 12, 2007.[16][17] Three days later, Dauphin and Valentini were released and the Ivorian government dropped its charges against them.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2014, Dauphin worked to a hectic schedule to the end of his life. During his illness, he named former risk manager Jeremy Weir as Trafigura’s new chief executive officer and continued to travel. In the weeks prior to his death, Dauphin traveled to Nigeria to secure an oil swaps contract with the government of Muhammadu Buhari and to Angola to maintain Trafigura’s status as the country’s refined products supplier.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Dauphin married his wife Catherine in July 1976 in Caen, France. The couple had three children: Aurélie, Guillaume, and Charlotte.[2]

Dauphin died in hospital in Bogota, Colombia, on 30 September 2015, during a business trip.[19] In addition to his wife and three children, he was also survived by his five young grandchildren Maya, Alexander, Farah, Sebastian and Victoria and other members of his family.[20]

Dauphin was known to be a tough, disciplined boss, who continued to recycle metals after his father's death.[15] A private man, Dauphin was also known to communicate with lenders and bondholders in the company’s annual report, but not to speak publicly.[21] The only public speech he gave throughout his life was after receiving the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur from French President Jacques Chirac in 2001.[11]

Dauphin was active in the philanthropic work of the Trafigura Foundation.[6]


  1. ^ Kent, Sarah (24 March 2014). "Commodities Trader Trafigura Reshuffles Senior Management". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
  2. ^ a b Kroll, Luisa; Dolan, Kerry A. (2013). "Claude Dauphin". Forbes. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  3. ^ "Claude Dauphin Obituary | Trafigura". Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  4. ^ "Claude Dauphi 1951 – 2015". 2015-09-30. Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  5. ^ "Trafigura founder Claude Dauphin dies". Financial Times. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Burton, Mark (8 October 2015). "OBITUARY: Claude Dauphin, founder of Trafigura, 1951-2015". Metal Bulletin Daily. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  7. ^ "Trafigura details more of Claude Dauphin's past".
  8. ^ a b Hoffman, Andy (30 September 2015). "Claude Dauphin, Trafigura Trading House Founder, Dies at 64". Bloomberg. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  9. ^ "Claude Dauphin, commodities billionaire - obituary". Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  10. ^ "Claude Dauphin, commodities billionaire - obituary". Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  11. ^ a b Hume, Neil; Sheppard, David (8 October 2015). "Trafigura details more of Claude Dauphin's past". Financial Times. Retrieved 20 October 2015.
  12. ^ "Probo Koala: the cargo and journey of the Trafigura-chartered supertanker - LE SCANDALE DU PROBO KOALA". LE SCANDALE DU PROBO KOALA. 2016-08-08. Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  13. ^ Mason, Rowena (4 April 2010). "Publicity-shy Trafigura boss Claude Dauphin may appear in court". Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
  14. ^ "Trafigura lawsuits (re Côte d'Ivoire) | Business & Human Rights Resource Centre". Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  15. ^ a b The Daily Telegraph, Thursday 8 October 2015, Obituary [paper only], p.31
  16. ^ "The 400 Tons of Slop Scandal". Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  17. ^ Reuters (17 November 2012). "Trafigura reaches toxic waste settlement with Dutch". Retrieved 10 March 2013.[permanent dead link]
  18. ^ "Trading legend Dauphin leaves void at Trafigura". Business Insider. Retrieved 2016-10-26.
  19. ^ "Trafigura founder Claude Dauphin dies". Financial Times. 30 September 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Blas, Javier (28 January 2013). "Trafigura boss doubts rally will return". Financial Times. Retrieved 10 March 2013.