William Tavoulareas

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William Peter Tavoulareas
Born(1919-11-09)November 9, 1919
DiedJanuary 13, 1996(1996-01-13) (aged 76)
EducationSt. John's University (LLB)
OccupationBusiness executive
  • President of Mobil
President of Mobil
In office
September 1, 1969 – November 1, 1984
Preceded byRawleigh Warner Jr.
Succeeded byAllen E. Murray

William Peter Tavoulareas (November 9, 1919[citation needed] – January 13, 1996) was a Greek-American petroleum businessman who served as President and Chief Executive of the Mobil Corporation in the 1970s and 1980s. He was best known for his libel lawsuit against The Washington Post, responding to the newspaper's investigative journalism articles criticizing him.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Tavoulareas was the son of Greek and Italian immigrants,[3] and was born in Brooklyn, New York.[4] He earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from St. John's University School of Law.[1][5]


Tavoulareas started as an accountant at Mobil (then Socony-Vacuum) in 1947.[6] He held a series of financial positions until he was elected director of Mobil Oil Corp in 1965.[6] On September 1, 1969, he succeeded Rawleigh Warner, Jr. as President of Mobil.[7][8] He was elected director in 1976 and remained as President until November 1, 1984, when he was succeeded by Allen E. Murray.[9] He remained on the board of directors until 1988.[6] He had close ties to Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, and in his time as President, he helped Mobil grow from a revenue of $7.6 billion in 1969 to nearly $70 billion when he retired.[10]

He was also on the Boards of Aramco, Bankers Trust, Philip Morris, St. John's University, Georgetown University, Athens College, St. Francis Hospital, a Governor of New York Hospital, and served on the Boards of numerous charities both nationally and internationally.[citation needed] He was a Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Atlas Maritime Company[edit]

In 1982, Tavoulareas was unsuccessful in bringing a $2 million libel suit against The Washington Post for a November 30, 1979 front page story by Patrick Tyler saying he used his corporate position at Mobil to "set up his son" (Peter Tavoulareas) with a multi-million dollar management services contract with his shipping business, Atlas Maritime Company.[6][11] The initial jury's award of $2 million in favor of William Tavoulareas in July 1982 was put aside by the judge hearing the case, Oliver Gasch, on May 3, 1983 because he said Tavoulareas had not proven "actual malice".[12] The three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals upheld the verdict, 2–1. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, including Judges Kenneth Starr, George MacKinnon, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, upheld the ruling in March 1987, finding the story substantially true and holding that "the record abounds with uncontradicted evidence of nepotism in favor of Peter [Tavoulareas' son]" and "insufficient evidence exists in the record to support a finding of constitutional malice".[6][10][12][13]

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opened an investigation of the business relationship between William Tavoulareas and Peter Tavoulareas in 1977, at the urging of U.S. Representative John Dingell.[14][15] SEC investigators presented their findings in a draft memorandum in December 1980. The report stated that William Tavoulareas "participated in decisions" and was involved with Atlas "from approximately January 1974 through at least February 1976".[14] Stanley Sporkin, the departing director of enforcement at the SEC in 1981, stated he negotiated with Mobil's lawyers that there would be no punitive action against Mobil or its president, if they disclosed some of the findings. Ultimately, in July 1981, the SEC commissioners rejected the disclosure agreement set up by Sporkin. SEC Commissioner Philip A. Loomis Jr. argued that the SEC did not have authority to order Mobil to disclose that information.[14] Representative Dingell and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held hearings in February 1982 on the SEC's handling of the investigation of Tavoulareas, which included interviewing Sporkin.[15] William Tavoulareas declined an invitation to those hearings, citing the ongoing lawsuit with The Washington Post.[15]

Personal life[edit]

He married Adele. He had three children: Peter, William, and Patrice.[6] He was known by his friends as "Tav".[10]

He was a close friend of U.S. President George H. W. Bush and Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou.[16]


He died on January 13, 1996 at the age of 75 at Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Boca Raton, Florida, where he lived in his later years.[1][2][6][10]


  1. ^ a b c "William P. Tavoulareas, 75, Former Mobil President, Dies". The New York Times. 16 January 1996. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b "WILLIAM P. TAVOULAREAS DIES". Washington Post. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  3. ^ Tavoulareas, William (1985). Fighting Back. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-671-46966-5.
  4. ^ "WILLIAM P. TAVOULAREAS DIES". The Washington Post. 1 Jan 1996.
  5. ^ Barbara Rosewicz (July 28, 1982). "A three-man, three-woman jury, told that 'truth is a..." upi.com. United Press International. Retrieved July 19, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "William Tavoulareas; Mobil Executive, Libel Suit Figure". The Los Angeles Times. January 17, 1996. p. B10. Retrieved February 13, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Rawleigh Warner Jr. was named chairman of Mobil Oil Corp". The Los Angeles Times. May 1, 1969. p. 62. Retrieved February 13, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ Arnold, Laurence. "Rawleigh Warner, Mobil CEO Who Shaped Company Image, Dies at 92". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  9. ^ "Mobil Oil President Named". The Star Press. Muncie, Indiana. June 7, 1984. p. 33. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  10. ^ a b c d "William P. Tavoulareas, ex-Mobil exec". The Miami Herald. January 17, 1996. p. 4B. Retrieved February 14, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Tyler, Patrick (November 30, 1979). "Mobil Chief Sets Up Son In Venture". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  12. ^ a b "$2 Million Libel Verdict Reinstated Against Newspaper". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 10, 1985. p. 4B. Retrieved February 14, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ D.C. Circuit, Court of Appeals (March 13, 1987). "TAVOULAREAS v. PIRO 817 F.2d 762". casetext.com. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  14. ^ a b c Hershow, Sheila (February 22, 1982). "Why SEC Wouldn't Fight 'Vietnam War' with Mobil". Federal Times. pp. 388–389. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  15. ^ a b c Gerth, Jeff (February 9, 1982). "Disclosure policy is studied". New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2021.
  16. ^ To Ethnos (in Greek), 1988-11-06, Σχέδιο Κοσκωτά : Φάση 1η, Φιλιππόπουλος, Αλέκος