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Rex Tillerson

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Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson official Transition portrait.jpg
69th United States Secretary of State
Assumed office
February 1, 2017
President Donald Trump
Deputy Tom Shannon (Acting)
Preceded by John Kerry
33rd National President of the Boy Scouts of America
In office
May 26, 2010 – April 30, 2012
Preceded by John Gottschalk
Succeeded by Wayne Perry
Personal details
Born Rex Wayne Tillerson
(1952-03-23) March 23, 1952 (age 64)
Wichita Falls, Texas, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Renda St. Clair
Education University of Texas, Austin (BS)
Occupation CEO of ExxonMobil (2006–2016)
Salary $205,700 (2017) [1]
Net worth $245 million (2016)
Awards Eagle Scout (1965)
Order of Friendship (2013)

Rex Wayne Tillerson (born March 23, 1952) is an American energy executive, civil engineer, and diplomat who is the 69th and current United States Secretary of State, serving since his confirmation on February 1, 2017.[2] Tillerson joined ExxonMobil in 1975 as an engineer and served as the chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of the company from 2006 to 2016.

Tillerson began his career as an engineer and holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tillerson joined Exxon in 1975, and by 1989 had become general manager of the Exxon USA central production division. In 1995, he became president of Exxon Yemen Inc. and Esso Exploration and Production Khorat Inc. In 2006, Tillerson was elected chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon, the world's 6th largest company by revenue.[3][4] Tillerson retired from Exxon effective December 31, 2016, and was succeeded by Darren Woods.[5] He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.[3]

On December 13, 2016, President Donald Trump nominated Tillerson for United States Secretary of State.[6][7] He is a longtime contributor to Republican campaigns, although he did not donate to Trump's presidential campaign. Tillerson's close business ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin have generated controversy, particularly in light of the revelations about Putin's business dealings in the Panama Papers. In 2014, Tillerson opposed the sanctions against Russia.[8] He has previously been the director of the joint US-Russian oil company Exxon Neftegas.[9][10] Tillerson was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 23, 2017, to be Secretary of State when it voted 11–10 to send his nomination to the full Senate.[11] His nomination to be Secretary of State was confirmed by a 56–43 Senate vote on February 1, 2017.[12]

Early life and education

Tillerson was born on March 23, 1952, in Wichita Falls, Texas, the son of Patty Sue (née Patton) and Bobby Joe Tillerson.[13] Active in the Boy Scouts of America for most of his life, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout[14] in 1965.

Tillerson received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1975.[15] During his time at UT Austin, he was involved with the Tejas Club,[16] the Longhorn Band,[16] and Alpha Phi Omega.[17] In 2006 he was named a Distinguished Engineering Graduate.[15]



Tillerson joined Exxon Company, U.S.A in 1975 as a production engineer.[3] In 1989, Tillerson became general manager of the central production division of Exxon USA. In 1995, he became President of Exxon Yemen Inc. and Esso Exploration and Production Khorat Inc.[3]

In 1998, he became a vice president of Exxon Ventures (CIS) and president of Exxon Neftegas Limited with responsibility for Exxon's holdings in Russia and the Caspian Sea. In 1999, with the merger of Exxon and Mobil, he was named executive vice president of ExxonMobil Development Company. In 2004, he became president and director of ExxonMobil. On January 1, 2006, Tillerson was elected chairman and chief executive officer (CEO), following the retirement of Lee Raymond.[3]

In 2009, ExxonMobil acquired XTO Energy, a major natural gas producer, for $31 billion in stock. Michael Corkery of the Wall Street Journal wrote that "Tillerson's legacy rides on the XTO Deal."[18]

On January 4, 2017, The Financial Times reported that Tillerson would cut his ExxonMobil ties if he became Secretary of State.[19] Walter Shaub, the director of the United States Office of Government Ethics, said he was proud of the ethics agreement developed for Tillerson, who was now "free of financial conflicts of interest. His ethics agreement serves as a sterling model for what we’d like to see with other nominees".[20][21]

Ties with Russia

Tillerson with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, at the Kremlin, 2012.

Tillerson has ties with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.[9] They have been associates since Tillerson represented Exxon's interests in Russia during President Boris Yeltsin's tenure.[22] John Hamre, the President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, of which Tillerson is a board member, states that Tillerson "has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American, with the exception of Dr. Henry Kissinger."[22]

Tillerson is a friend of Igor Sechin,[23] the leader of the Kremlin's Siloviki (security/military) faction,[24] who has been described as "Russia's second-most powerful person" after Putin.[25]

In 2011, on behalf of ExxonMobil, Tillerson signed an agreement with Russia for drilling in the Arctic that could be valued up to $300 billion.[26] The company began drilling in the Kara Sea in the summer of 2014, and a round of sanctions against Russia introduced in September that year due to the Ukrainian crisis was to have brought the project to a halt in mid-September.[27][28] Nevertheless, the company was granted a reprieve that stretched the window to work until October 10, which enabled it to discover a major field with about 750 million barrels of new oil for Russia.[29]

In 2013, Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin for his contribution to developing cooperation in the energy sector.[30]

Ties in Middle East

Under Tillerson's leadership, ExxonMobil had close ties with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.[31]

From 2003 to 2005, an European subsidiary of ExxonMobil, Infineum, operated in the Middle East providing sales to Iran, Sudan and Syria. In that period, Infineum made sales of $53.2 million in Iran, $600,000 in Sudan and $1.1 million in Syria respectively. ExxonMobil stated that they followed all legal framework and that such sales were minuscule compared to their annual revenue of $371 billion at the time. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, a member of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, expressed concern over Tillerson's business activities while at Exxon.[32]

In 2011, Tillerson, on behalf of ExxonMobil, signed a deal to develop oil fields in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The agreement was in defiance of Iraqi law, which forbids companies from dealing directly with Iraqi Kurdistan.[33]


In 2012, Tillerson's compensation package was $40.5 million.[34] It was $28.1 million in 2013, $33.1 million in 2014, and $27.2 million in 2015.[35] Tillerson holds $245 million of Exxon stock.[36]

On January 3, 2017, ExxonMobil announced they had reached an agreement with Tillerson "to sever all ties with the company to comply with conflict-of-interest requirements associated with his nomination as secretary of state."[37]

Other affiliations

Tillerson is a trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the American Petroleum Institute.[38] He is also a member of the Business Roundtable.[3]

He was a member of the executive committee of The Business Council for 2011 and 2012.[39]

Tillerson is a longtime volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, and from 2010 to 2012 was their national president, its highest non-executive position.[40][41] Tillerson is a Distinguished Eagle Scout, and his father was a BSA executive. Tillerson is a long time supporter of the Boy Scouts of America and has said, "I think the highlight of my youth and adolescent years were my achievements in Scouting." In 2009, Tillerson was inducted into the Eagle Scout Hall of Fame of the Greater New York Councils.[42] Ray L. Hunt, a close friend and the Chairman of Hunt Consolidated, told the Dallas Morning News, "To understand Rex Tillerson, you need to understand Scouting."[41]

After the end of his term as BSA president, he remained on the organization's National Executive Board. There he played a significant role in the board's 2013 decision to rescind the long-standing ban on openly gay youth as members. According to Center for Strategic and International Studies president John Hamre, Tillerson was instrumental in the change and "a key leader in helping the group come to a consensus."[41][43]

Political involvement

Tillerson greets German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Washington, D.C., February 2, 2017

Political views

In 2014, Tillerson expressed opposition to the sanctions against Russia in response to the annexation of Crimea at an Exxon shareholder meeting.[44] He told the 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."[45] In 2016, Tillerson said that the US should have deployed military units to neighboring states next to Russia in a more "muscular" response.[46][47] In 2017, Tillerson said that Russia's annexation of Crimea was illegal.[48] He also compared China's controversial island-building in the South China Sea to Russia's annexation of Crimea.[49]

During his Secretary of State confirmation hearings, Marco Rubio asked Tillerson if he would label Saudi Arabia as a "human rights violator." Tillerson declined to do so, saying: “When you designate someone or label someone, is that the most effective way to have progress be able to be made in Saudi Arabia or any other country?”[50] He supported the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.[51]

Climate change and carbon tax

In 2010, Tillerson said that while he acknowledged that humans were affecting the climate through greenhouse gas emissions to some degree, it was not yet clear "to what extent and therefore what can you do about it."[52][53]

Tillerson also stated, "The world is going to have to continue using fossil fuels, whether they like it or not."[54]

Tillerson stated in 2009 that he favors a carbon tax as "the most efficient means of reflecting the cost of carbon in all economic decisions—from investments made by companies to fuel their requirements to the product choices made by consumers."[55] In October 2016, less than two months before his nomination as Secretary of State, he gave a speech in which he reaffirmed that ExxonMobil had long viewed a carbon tax to be “the best policy of those being considered. Replacing the hodge-podge of current, largely ineffective regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon tax would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy . . . allow market forces to drive solutions . . . maximize transparency, reduce administrative complexity, promote global participation and easily adjust” to new knowledge in climate science and in the policy consequences of various courses of action.[56]

An article in The New York Times published after Tillerson's Secretary of State nomination suggested that ExxonMobil's embrace of a carbon tax in October 2009 may have simply been an effort to avoid cap and trade legislation that was then under consideration in the U.S. Congress.[57] A Time magazine article asserts that since Tillerson announced ExxonMobil's preference for a carbon tax, the giant oil company "has not made a carbon tax a focus of its massive lobbying efforts and has supported a number of candidates and organizations that oppose measures to tackle the [climate change] issue."[58]

Support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

In 2013, Tillerson outlined his support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), stating at the Global Security Forum: "One of the most promising developments on this front is the ongoing effort for the Trans-Pacific Partnership... The 11 nations that have been working to lower trade barriers and end protectionist policies under this partnership are a diverse mix of developed and developing economies. But all of them understand the value of open markets to growth and progress for every nation.”[59]

Free trade

Speaking in March 2007 at a Council on Foreign Relations event, Tillerson said:

Should the United States seek so-called energy independence in an elusive effort to insulate this country from the impact of world events on the economy, or should Americans pursue the path of international engagement, seeking ways to better compete within the global market for energy? Like the Council's founders, I believe we must choose the course of greater international engagement ... The central reality is this: The global free market for energy provides the most effective means of achieving U.S. energy security by promoting resource development, enabling diversification, multiplying our supply channels, encouraging efficiency, and spurring innovation.[60]

Government regulation

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Tillerson expressed his impatience with government regulation, stating "there are a thousand ways you can be told 'no' in this country."[61]


In September 2013, Tillerson wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal defending Common Core.[62]

Republican campaign fundraising and donations

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Tillerson has made tens of thousands of dollars of political donations to Republican groups and candidates.[63] According to FEC records, he gave a total of $468,970 in contributions to Republican candidates and committees from 2000 to 2016.[64]

He has contributed to the political campaigns of George W. Bush,[63] as well as Mitt Romney in 2012, and Mitch McConnell.[65] He did not donate to Donald Trump's campaign.[63] He donated to Jeb Bush's campaign during the 2016 Republican primaries.[63][66]

Secretary of State

Tillerson at his confirmation hearing on January 11, 2017.
Tillerson being sworn in as Secretary of State on February 1, 2017.
Tillerson delivering welcome remarks at the State Department on his first official day as Secretary of State.

Tillerson was first recommended to Trump for the Secretary of State role by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her meeting with Trump in late November.[67] Rice's recommendation of Tillerson to Trump was backed up by Robert Gates, three days later.[67] Media speculation that he was being considered for the position began on December 5, 2016.[68] On December 9, transition officials reported that Tillerson was the top candidate for the position surpassing Mitt Romney and David Petraeus.[69] His nomination was reportedly advocated by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.[70]

On the evening of December 10, the BBC cited NBC reports that "sources close to Mr Trump [were] ... saying that Mr Tillerson is likely to be named next week" as US Secretary of State. There were also reports that former UN ambassador John Bolton would serve as Deputy Secretary of State, however Bolton was not chosen for this position.[71] On December 12, The New York Times reported that Tillerson had been chosen as Secretary of State.[6] On December 13, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump announced that Tillerson would be his nominee for Secretary of State.[6][72]

In response to Tillerson's comments on blocking access to man-made islands in the South China Sea, China's state-controlled media warned of a "large-scale war" between the U.S. and China.[49][73]

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Tillerson's nomination 11–10, a strict party line vote on January 23, 2017.[74]

The Senate confirmed Tillerson as Secretary of State on February 1, 2017. The Senate voted 56 to 43, with all 52 Republicans in support of his nomination as well as 3 Democrats and 1 independent.[75] He was sworn in the same day.[76]


Confirmation Process
Voting Body Vote Date Vote Results
Senate Committee for Foreign Affairs January 23, 2017 11-10
Full Senate February 1, 2017 56-43

Personal life

Tillerson is married to Renda St. Clair, and they have four children.[14][77] He resides in Irving, Texas.[14] Tillerson is a Congregationalist who holds a membership in the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, a mainline Reformed denomination.[78][79] He and his wife donated $5,000–$10,000 to denomination's The Congregationalist Magazine in 2012.[80][81]

On February 20, 2014, news outlets reported that Tillerson and his wife joined opponents of a proposed water tower that could lead to fracking-related traffic near their homes. Plaintiffs included former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Dick Armey and his wife.[82][83] The Tillersons dropped out of the lawsuit after a judge dismissed their claim in November 2014.[84]


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Further reading

External links

Business positions
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Lee Raymond
Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil
Succeeded by
Darren Woods
Boy Scouts of America
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John Gottschalk
President of the Boy Scouts of America
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