Rex Tillerson could become the first secretary of state in modern history with no experience in any public office.

But he has nonetheless travelled the world, hammering out oil deals on behalf of ExxonMobil with leaders from countries including Nigeria, Yemen, Qatar and Russia.

He faces a tough confirmation hearing in the Senate with several Republicans joining Democrats in expressing concern at Tillerson's close ties to Russia.

Born in Texas, he studied civil engineering at the state's university and joined ExxonMobil in 1975 as a production engineer. He worked his way up through the ranks, becoming the company's chairman and chief executive in 2006.


Throughout his 41-year career Tillerson, 64, has perhaps been best known for the decades he spent driving the company's expansion in Russia.

In 1998 he was placed in charge of ExxonMobil's holdings in Russia and in the Caspian Sea, and in 2011 the company signed a deal with Rosneft, Russia's largest state-owned oil firm, for joint oil exploration and production.

Together they announced plans to begin drilling in the Russian Arctic, an action that was made economically viable in part because of thinning sea ice resulting from global warming.

Two years later, President Vladimir Putin gave Tillerson the Order of Friendship from Russia.

"He has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger," John Hamre, the president of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think-tank where Tillerson is a board member, told the Wall Street Journal.

ExxonMobil was forced to suspend its involvement in the Arctic project when the United States imposed sanctions on Russia for annexing Crimea and fueling a war in east Ukraine in 2014.

The company's head of Russian operations has said it is waiting until sanctions are lifted to resume the project. That creates a potential conflict of interest that will set alarm bells ringing in Kiev, but it will also worry Nato allies such as the Baltic States, which see a strong line on sanctions and the Ukraine crisis is seen as key to regional security.

Alexei Pushkov, a hawkish member of the Russian upper house, described Tillerson on Twitter as "by definition a pragmatist, with great experience of Russia," and praised Trump as "not a coward" for making the appointment.


ExxonMobil explores for oil and gas on six of the world's seven continents and has operations in more than 50 countries. Tillerson owns ExxonMobil shares worth US$151 million, according a recent securities filing. His compensation package last year was US$27.2 million.

His job has involved some thorny political negotiation. Shortly after he became chairman of the company, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's socialist president moved to nationalise the assets of several foreign oil companies, including ExxonMobil.

Born: March 23 1952 (age 64)
From:Wichita Falls, Texas
Education:Bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas
Occupation:Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil - the world's largest energy company
Did you know?
In 2013, Tillerson received a Russian state honour, the Order of Friendship, for "strengthening cooperation in the energy sector"
He has also served as the National President of the Boy Scouts of America
Tillerson joined Exxon Company, U.S.A. in 1975 as a production engineer and worked his way up the ranks to become Chairman and CEO in 2006.
Secretary of State
President-elect Donald Trump announced Tillerson as his choice for secretary of state today, saying he would be "a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America's vital national interests". Tillerson's experience in diplomacy stems from making deals with foreign countries, but questions were immediately raised about the oil executive's relations with Russia.

Whilst many others sought to negotiate, ExxonMobil took Venezuela to international arbitration court, winning a US$1.6 billion compensation package in 2014.

His position on climate may actually be to the left of Donald Trump. Whilst Trump has described the link between carbon emissions an global warming a "hoax", Tillerson has called the phenomena "real" and "serious".

ExxonMobil only recently publicly recognised the threat to the planet from fossil fuel emissions, but the company moved towards identifying solutions to the problem whilst under his leadership.

Tillerson, who is a conservative, supported Jeb Bush, Trump's failed rival for the Republican nomination during the party's primary elections last year.

A life long Boy Scout, he rose to become president of the organisations. In 2013 he played an instrumental role in changing policy to allow gay youth to participate.