Oilsands pioneer and former Suncor Energy CEO Rick George dies of leukemia

CALGARY – Rick George, the legendary oilsands executive who helped make the formation economically viable, has died at the age of 67 after a battle with leukemia.

The long-time Suncor Energy Inc. president and CEO had fought acute myeloid leukemia for over a year but died on Aug. 1, a statement from the family announced Wednesday, which described him as “a brilliant businessman, a loyal friend, and a loving husband, father and grandfather, he will be greatly missed.”

“With heavy hearts, we are determined to embrace challenges and adventure with the same rigour that he demonstrated every day,” the statement reads.

In addition to building Suncor into the largest integrated oil company in Canada, through a $19.6-billion purchase of Petro-Canada in 2009, George helped pioneer oilsands mining from a money-losing venture to an extremely profitable extraction technique that attracted billions in foreign investment to 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.

The statement notes that George, an avid outdoorsman, 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.”

“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,” Williams said.

In 2007, George was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada 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.

George retired from Suncor in May 2012 but remained involved in the oilpatch. He joined Penn West Petroleum Ltd. (now called Obsidian Energy Ltd.) board as chairman, privately-held Osum Oil Sands Corp. as chairman and also served as a board member at Royal Bank of Canada and Anadarko Petroleum Corp.

George recently spoke to the Financial Post and was optimistic that the oilsands would continue to be a productive resource for Canada for a long time to come despite lack of government support.

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


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