When the "Reds" and the "Blues" got closer to drive to today's TOTAL
3 questions… on your feelings about the TOTALFINA ELF merger...
What was your initial reaction to the announcement of the project?
I learned about TotalFina's friendly bid on Elf on the radio, commented by Thierry Desmarest, on Monday morning before going to work. I was then country delegate Tunisia-Niger-Cameroon Equatorial Guinea in the EP branch of Elf and I was secretary general of the Africa branch. My reaction was surprise tinged with concern.
But gradually, the concern gave way to confidence, because the winners of the OPA repeated that they wanted to conduct a merger on equal terms in which the employees of the two companies would be assigned equally to positions of manager and that they would be judged after 3 years, according to their merit and not according to their original membership.
What challenges did you anticipate that were easy to manage and, conversely, what were the unexpected difficulties that arose during the project?
The nature and quality of the positions reserved for "Reds" and "Blues" were the critical point of the merger. We were nevertheless aware that the success of the merger was in the buyer's interest. But on Elf's side, we were convinced that our exploration-production results would keep us in the spotlight. Total was more developed than us in business, so basically in the downstream, and we thought that our colleagues in the Elf network, on the other hand, would have more difficult days to live. There was also the question of the type of organization to be set up in the new society: would it be a very structured company like Elf or a flexible company in which the hierarchs would remain affordable by their N-4, as in a SMEs. Again, we felt that the size of TotalFinaElf would necessarily produce a structure and organization of the type we had known for years and that, therefore, future changes would have a greater impact on employees of the company. ex-Total only for ourselves. These intuitions proved to be accurate.
What is the most memorable memory you have of this period?
The images that come back to me are numerous. I see again President Jaffre who summoned all the management in the amphitheater of the Coupole tower, after the announcement by Total of the friendly OPA; he descended the amphitheater in an alarming manner amidst the crumbling mines of his directors, shouting: "Haut les cœurs! While my neighbor, a mergers and acquisitions expert, explained why he was not giving up on our counter-bid. I am also reviewing the team matching sessions organized by the top management after the merger, in which we were invited to say what we thought of the other. It was here, for the first time, that I heard the phrase "Know how to do 80/20", meaning that our engineers spent too much time doing the projects to perfection (100%), sometimes to the detriment of their economy.