Calouste Gulbenkian


Calouste Gulbenkian was the driving force behind the establishment of the Turkish Petroleum Company. He had already helped establish Royal Dutch Shell and was familiar with the oil industry in Russia. Originally born in Constantinople, he became a naturalised British citizen in 1902 and based himself in Cairo. Whilst here he met with the Armenian oil magnate Alexander Matashev and Sir Evelyn Baring.

The Turkish Petroleum Company was a consortium of the largest European oil companies who decided to cooperate in order to secure exploration and drilling rights in the Iraqi part of the Ottoman Empire. The timing was not so fortuitous as it came on the eve of the First World War. It was set up in 1911 with British, Dutch, German and Ottoman interests. These had to be shuffled extesively with the coming of war and indeed Calouste Gulbenkian also had to navigate the difficulties of the Second World War from the neutral territory of Portugal where he relocated in 1942. He would be known as Mr Five Percent Cent as he personally owned that much of Middle Eastern oil production through share ownership in his various interests.

Further Reading: Mr Five Per Cent: The many lives of Calouste Gulbenkian, the world's richest man by Jonathan Conlin


The Middle East



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