The TOTALFINA - ELF merger: when the absorber is absorbed!
3 questions… of your feelings on the merger of TOTALFINA and ELF…
What activity did you perform at the time of the merger and within which entity?
I worked at Total from 1980 to 2014, which allowed me to experience all the company name changes and mergers with Petrofina and Elf. So I started my career in 1980 at the Research Center near the Normandy refinery in Gonfreville-l'Orcher (Seine-Maritime), operated by what was then called the Compagnie Française de Raffinage. In 1985, I experienced a first change of name with Total - Compagnie Française des Pétroles (Total CFP), then a second one in 1991 with Total! At that time, I was a process engineer at the refinery in Vlissingen, in the Netherlands. When the first Total-Fina merger arrived in 1999, I left the Netherlands to return to the Normandy refinery as a process manager. In 2000, at the time of the 2nd Total-Fina-Elf merger, I left to become Head of the technical department at the refinery in Rome, Italy, previously operated by Fina. Two years later, I went to Donges (Loire-Atlantique) to set up the QHSE department.
How did you experience these changes on a daily basis?
Certainly, changes in culture and practices over the course of mergers have not always been easy to implement, because the people to whom I had to come up with new ways of working were fearful of change. Fortunately, however, Total had a "toolbox" of methods and practices for driving change in highly technical departments.
In addition, move from the fairly rigid way of working Dutch - where meeting participants arrive neither early nor late, but on time! - the very creative Italians, which sometimes had to be channeled, was very rewarding. At the Rome refinery, it was the first time that a Frenchman had come to work there, because the refinery owned by Fina, our Italian colleagues were used to seeing mainly Belgian expatriates. I keep an excellent memory of all these experiences, even if some were a little difficult, as in Donges, where I felt that the fusion Antar-Elf, yet old, was not yet well digested!
What is the most memorable memory you have of this period?
It is a phone call from my counterpart in charge of the petrochemical process at Elf, opposite the refinery, at the beginning of 2000, when I was working in Gonfreville-l'Orcher. During the conversation, he asked me how much I had engineers and technicians in my team, because he would have to prepare for the recovery of Total by Elf, so the absorption of my team ... We know what it was two months later!