Oil­sands in­dus­try pi­o­neer Rick Ge­orge dies

For­mer Sun­cor En­ergy CEO was 67

Cape Breton Post - - Obituaries - BY DAN HEAL­ING

Rick Ge­orge, for­mer CEO of Sun­cor En­ergy and a pi­o­neer of Canada’s oil­sands in­dus­try, has died at the age of 67 af­ter a bat­tle with acute myeloid leukemia.

Ge­orge, who died Tues­day, is cred­ited with trans­form­ing Sun­cor from a money-los­ing oil­sands min­ing com­pany into one of Canada’s largest cor­po­ra­tions over a 21-year ca­reer be­fore his re­tire­ment in 2012.

“Rick’s im­pact on the oil­sands in­dus­try, the Cana­dian business com­mu­nity, and the broader com­mu­nity has been im­mea­sur­able,” said Sun­cor CEO Steve Wil­liams in a state­ment.

“Rick was very much ad­mired and loved by his Sun­cor fam­ily.”

Wil­liams worked as an ex­ec­u­tive with Ge­orge for 10 years at Sun­cor be­fore as­sum­ing the helm of the com­pany.

Ge­orge joined the com­pany that would be­come Sun­cor in 1991 and brought in changes that up­set tra­di­tional min­ing prac­tices but boosted pro­duc­tion and prof­itabil­ity.

“He had the for­ti­tude and the vi­sion to change the model and he ... rein­vented the model to al­low oil­sands to reach its po­ten­tial in a way that we’re all ben­e­fit­ing from to­day,” said Tim McMil­lan, pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Pe­tro­leum Pro­duc­ers.

Ge­orge over­saw Sun­cor’s $19-bil­lion merger with PetroCanada in 2009, cre­at­ing a com­pany with oil­sands pro­duc­tion, re­finer­ies, re­tail out­lets, off­shore and con­ven­tional oil and gas assets through­out the coun­try.

Sun­cor’s shares are now worth about $68 bil­lion.

In a state­ment on Wed­nes­day, his fam­ily asked for pri­vacy.

“With heavy hearts, we are de­ter­mined to em­brace chal­lenges and ad­ven­ture with the same rigour that he demon­strated every day,” the state­ment said.

“A bril­liant busi­ness­man, a loyal friend, and a lov­ing hus­band, fa­ther and grand­fa­ther, he will be greatly missed.”

His im­me­di­ate fam­ily in­cludes his wife Julie, sons Matthew and Zachary, and daugh­ter Emily.

Ge­orge was born in the small ranch­ing com­mu­nity of Brush, Colo., and earned sci­ence and law de­grees in the United States.

He served as man­ag­ing direc­tor of Sun Oil Bri­tain Ltd. be­fore mov­ing to Canada in 1991, later adopt­ing Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship.

Mike O’Brien, a cur­rent mem­ber of the Sun­cor board who re­tired as chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer in 2002, said Ge­orge’s drive was bal­anced by a folksy charm that helped him win con­verts to his point of view.

“He’s a hell of a nice guy. Ev­ery­one wants to help him get it done,” said O’Brien.

Ge­orge was ap­pointed an of­fi­cer of the or­der of Canada in 2007 in recog­ni­tion of his business acu­men and com­mit­ment to Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment.

“He was on the en­vi­ron­men­tal file be­fore any­one else was. He was on the Abo­rig­i­nal file,” said O’Brien. “He just felt those things were pri­or­i­ties and he saw the big pic­ture.”

Ge­orge wrote a bi­og­ra­phy af­ter retiring called Sun Rise: Sun­cor, the Oil Sands and the Fu­ture of En­ergy, in which he staunchly de­fended the en­vi­ron­men­tal record of the oil­sands and its in­ter­ac­tions with Abo­rig­i­nals while de­cry­ing de­lays in ap­prov­ing ex­port oil pipe­lines such as the Key­stone XL.


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