Life of the company | - Iraq

The 1928 "Red Line" agreement

The Group archives have the original (or a copy?) of an agreement dated July 31, 1928, of the Turkish Petroleum, which will become the Iraq Petroleum Company: the so-called Red Line agreement. TPC then had four main shareholders, each with a 23.75% stake: taking their names today, BP, Shell, Total and a structure grouping six American companies including Exxon, Mobil, Arco, Gulf (NEDC, Near East Development Cy). They agreed to formalize the organization of the TPC and the terms of exploitation of any existing or future concessions within an area representing the former Ottoman Empire minus Egypt and Kuwait. An essential clause forbade the partners to search for oil for their own account in this whole space: we went there together or we did not go. This agreement was at the origin of a powerful oil consortium and influenced thirty years before the creation of OPEC. A fifth actor was very active when drafting this agreement: Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian. Armenian by origin, he is the only one who speaks the languages ​​of the region; thanks to his knowledge and his ability to influence the Turkish government, he positioned himself as the essential negotiator between shareholders and local representatives, gaining recognition in passing of 5% of the capital of TPC, which earned him the nickname "Mister 5%. " Thanks to this participation, he is reputed to have become the richest man in the world for many years. It has constituted one of the most prestigious collections of world art, visible at the Calouste-Gulbenkian museum in Lisbon (the French post-war government did not allow him to establish it in Paris!). He died in Lisbon in July 1955; his funeral took place at the Armenian Church of St. Sarkis, which he had financed for construction, near Kensington, where he is buried.

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