The merger gave me the opportunity to evolve to new horizons
3 questions… on your feelings about the TOTALFINA & ELF merger…
What was your initial reaction to the announcement of the project?
This morning of July 5, 1999, I was on vacation and I was listening to France Info. It was between 8am and 9am when I heard the announcement of the public exchange offer between Elf and Total. I will remember it all my life! I immediately told my wife and I grabbed my phone to join my hierarchy in Paris. My chief, who was not on vacation, was not yet aware, like all those who were in transport at that hour.
At the time, we did not have the mobile Internet. He remained incredulous, he thought I was making him walk!
He spoke to n + 2, who was not aware either ... and so on until mid-morning when the press releases were released at headquarters. But really, this merger learned by chance on the radio was an incredible surprise, because the rivalry between TotalFina and Elf was very important, with very fierce competition on the ground.
How did you experience the merger on a daily basis?
At that time, I was working at Elf as a bitumen and Styrelf representative. Coming from headquarters, I was transferred in August 1998 to the regional office of Saint-Herblain, near Nantes, and I was in charge of a fairly large area stretching from the West to Midi-Pyrénées. I remember the bustling summer soap opera with Elf's counterproposal and, mid-September, accepting Total's bid. It was not until the green light of the regulatory authorities of competition to define the posts and start the joint work.
Without the merger, I think I probably would not have been able to get to such interesting positions so quickly, first in paraffins and waxes, a job that did not exist at Elf. I landed in 2001 in this very new activity for me which was an immersion in a 100% Total environment. New IT tools, new manufacturing processes, new Total product lines and new customer applications needed to be mastered. With the merger, career opportunities were offered and I changed functions several times over a short period of time ... A real challenge, but an exciting journey, even if it resulted in a geographical mobility a bit trying for my wife and my four children, because of four moves in three years!
What change in culture and practices did it involve for you?
I focused on learning the methods and practices of Total, a competitor we used to follow on a regular basis. In the new Total-Fina-Elf, the game was that you could not determine my home company, which meant knowing as much about Total as the people of Total origin themselves. I did it pretty well I think! The cultures were quite close, despite some differences in client approach, service or interpersonal relationships. Thus, I had noticed that there was little contact with Elf, unlike Total's. Having kept the habit of “vouvoiement” myself, I still have a little trouble today to say "vous" to my former bosses before the merger!
Looking back, I think this merger was the best thing for our home societies. It was done fairly quickly, efficiently and optimally, which was emphasized externally by the financial community, because we had the wisdom, more often than not, to keep the best of what was being done in each of our three companies.