Donald Trump is expected to nominate Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, two sources close to the transition process told NBC News on Saturday.
The 64-year-old Tillerson began his career at Exxon in 1975 as an engineer, rising through the ranks and becoming president and director in 2004 and CEO two years later. He was born in Wichita Falls, Texas, and studied civil engineering at University of Texas.
Trump met Tillerson on Tuesday and may talk to him again over the weekend, the official said. Trump appears to be in the final days of deliberations over his top diplomat with an announcement possible next week.
If Tillerson is nominated, his business ties, as well, will come under scrutiny. Exxon Mobil has operations in more than 50 countries and boasts that it explores for oil and natural gas on six continents.
In 2011, Exxon Mobil signed a deal with Rosneft, Russia’s largest state-owned oil company, for joint oil exploration and production. Since then, the companies have formed 10 joint ventures for projects in Russia.
Tillerson had reportedly jumped to the front of the pack of candidates in recent days, despite not being mentioned on shortlists as recently as last week.
Critics have already called into question Tillerson’s ties to Russian president Vladimir Putin. Just as they have called into question every pick that Trump has made fro one reason or another.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Tillerson negotiated an energy partnership with Putin in 2011 that the Russian president said could be worth $500 billion.
The following year, Tillerson received the Russian Order of Friendship, one of the highest awards the country bestows upon foreign nationals. Reports say that Tillerson will work hand in hand with former UN Ambassador John Bolton for day to day management of the department a source said.
Reuters reported earlier this year that the Exxon Mobil deal with Russia had been put on hold due to sanctions levied against the Kremlin for its annexation of Crimea in 2014. The company has said it intends to resume the deal after sanctions are lifted — a process that Tillerson could help expedite as secretary of State.
The selection of the Putin ally comes just hours after the Washington Post reported that the CIA had assessed that Russia had interfered in the U.S. election in an effort to help Trump get to the White House.
Trump pushed back on the report with an attack on the CIA. An unattributed statement from his transition team said of the agency, “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.”
Other facts about Tillerson:
- As of his latest SEC ownership filing update on Dec. 2, Rex Tillerson currently owns exactly $233,078,184 worth of Exxon Mobil stock, based on Friday’s $89.00 closing price. (The exact number of shares he owns is 2,618,856).
- Exxon Mobil is currently the fifth largest publicly-traded company in the entire world. The only companies ranking ahead of XOM and its $369,055,665,000 market value are Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Berkshire Hathaway.
- Tillerson has never worked anywhere other than Exxon. He joined the company after graduating college in 1975 to become a “production engineer”, per his official Exxon bio