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Former Suncor Energy CEO Rick George dies of leukemia

Rick George

Rick George, former CEO of Suncor died on Aug.1 after a battle with leukemia. CBC photo.

Rick George helped pioneer oil sands mining

Rick George, described as one of the pioneers of oil sands mining, passed away on Aug. 1 after a year-long battle against leukemia at the age of 67, according to a statement from his family on Wednesday.

Mr. George was a long-time president and CEO of Suncor Energy who was described as a “brilliant businessman, a loyal friend, and a loving husband, father and grandfather.”

“He will be greatly missed.” says the family, adding “with heavy hearts, we are determined to embrace challenges and adventure with the same rigour that he demonstrated every day.”

In 2009, Rick George turned Suncor into the largest integrated oil company in Canada after he brokered a $19.6 billion deal to purchase Petro-Canada.  He helped develop oil sands mining, turning it from a money-losing venture by figuring out an extremely profitable extraction technique that ultimately attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment into Canada.

“Rick’s impact on the oil sands industry, the Canadian business community, and the broader community has been immeasurable,” Suncor president and CEO Steve Williams said in a statement.

In the Suncor statement, Rick George is described as an avid outdoorsman who encouraged Suncor to adopt a climate action plan in the 1990s “well before many companies had begun to address the environmental impacts of their operations.”

Williams added “We were saddened to hear the news of his passing and extend our sincerest condolences to his family at this difficult time. Rick was very much admired and loved by his Suncor family.”

Rick George was bestowed with the Order of Canada in 2007 for his leadership in the development of Canada’s natural resources sector.

“His optimism for the future was balanced with a realistic view of the present – a perspective that has helped our company through the recent downturn.  He was a great friend and mentor, I will miss him greatly,” Osum CEO Steve Spence said in a statement.

In 2012, Mr. George retired from Suncor, but did not retire from the Alberta oilpatch.  He since was on the board of Penn West Petroleum (now operating as Obsidian Energy Ltd) as chairman.  He was also chairman at Osum Oil Sands Corp and served as a board member at Royal Bank of Canada and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

In a recent interview with the Financial Post, Rick George said he remained optimistic about the oil sands and that they would continue to be a productive resource for Canada for years to come.

“We will be producing oilsands for another 300 to 500 years,” he told the Post last month.

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Posted in: Canada

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