DREAM TEAM SCOUTING REPORT Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State

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CEO, ExxonMobil
Age 64
Residence Irving, TX
Marital Status Married -Children 4
Education Associate in Arts / Science, University of Texas at Austin

Forbes Lists
#24 Powerful People (2016)
#25 in 2015

Tillerson was tapped by President-elect Donald Trump as his nominee for Secretary of State. Tillerson started his career at ExxonMobil in 1975 and became CEO in 2006. The Texas oilman has close ties to the most powerful person on FORBES’ list, Vladimir Putin, whom Tillerson knew in the 1990s, when he led Exxon’s interests in Russia. Under Tillerson’s leadership, Exxon has recovered from a steep drop in its stock price last year.

ABOUT TILLERSON:

  1. Negotiator: He is an accomplished negotiator. Tillerson has experience running negotiations for everything from land-use rights to labor issues to transportation deals. Under his leadership, Exxon has negotiated with foreign and U.S. governments and major international conglomerates.
  2. Management: As the chief executive of a $370 billion global company with operations in approximately 50 countries, Tillerson has experience managing a large operation. The scope and range of operations at Exxon is tremendous, including: oil exploration, construction, logistics, high technology research and development, marketing, sales, human resources, compliance and, of course, pumping oil. The Secretary of State runs an institution with a budget of $65.9 billion that operates in nearly every country in the world and includes a wide array of operations, including: visa services, services for Americans abroad, national security participation, trade promotion, diplomatic security and, of course, high level diplomacy. Compared to a politician, academic or diplomat, Tillerson clearly has the managerial experience.
  3. World Leadership: Tillerson has diplomatic experience – representing Exxon instead of the United States . He knows world leaders and understands their motivations. Tillerson has had to address the concerns of foreign leaders, incentivize them to work with him. This mirrors U.S. needs: a top diplomat who realistically addresses the motivations of foreign leaders and convinces them to work with—not against—the U.S.
  4. Private Sector Work Ethic: Tillerson joined Exxon in 1975, and was promoted for his accomplishment. Tillerson would not be satisfied to travel the world and pose for photo-opts. Exxon has been amongst the most profitable global companies because of its accomplishments. Tillerson could bring that drive for success to represent the U.S. around the world.
  5. Conflicts of Interest: One of the loudest complaints about a Tillerson post in the State Department is that his ties to Exxon cannot be easily severed because he has equity and vesting options in the company. There are two problems with this argument: First, the U.S. regularly has private sector executives take major roles in other federal departments. For example, the Treasury Secretary has frequently come from Wall Street. Second, if private sector entanglement becomes a litmus test, the U.S. will not be able to benefit from private sector experience and talent.
  6. Ties to Foreign Leaders: Some have argued that Tillerson, as a representative of Exxon, has built a relationship with Russia, receiving an award from Putin and opposing sanctions against that country. Many pundits view this association negatively, yet, at the same time, consider Iowa governor Terry Brandstad’s friendly ties to Chinese president Xi Jinping a positive component of his appointment as Ambassador to China. CNN said Brandstad was “uniquely well-suited because of his close relationship with Xi.” The main difference here is that Brandstad built his relationship with China as a representative of Iowa while Tillerson built his relationship with Russia (and other countries) as a representative of Exxon. As Secretary of State, Tiller would instead represent the interests of the United States.
  7. Energy and the Environment: Environmentalists would likely complain about an energy company executive taking a top role in government, but Tillerson can point to Exxon’s decades of leading work in alternative energy. In fact, Tillerson’s experience in the energy industry is a distinct advantage. For example, he knows how energy can be used to pressure China to adopt fair trade practices.
  8. Loyalty: This should be the primary focus of the Senate confirmation process because Tillerson’s experience and skill is already well demonstrated. After over 40 years at Exxon, can Tillerson adjust to a new employer with new responsibilities and a new allegiance? President-elect Trump, his advisors and the Senate will make a determination on this. There is nothing in Tillerson’s history to suggest that he would be disloyal and in fact, he has run a company that has been a backbone of American economic growth for over 100 years.

Experience running the most successful publicly traded energy company is a useful background for leading the world’s most important diplomatic institution. Tillerson would likely follow a realist foreign policy – approaching the world as it is and making realistic movement towards what the United States hopes it can be. Peace, prosperity and American interests would become his new measures of profit and success.

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