Lee F. Raymond is the anticelebrity CEO. Exxon Mobil Corp.'s (XOM) boss shuns the press, seldom grants audiences to Wall Street analysts, and rarely makes public appearances. But in 2000, Raymond, 62, found himself caught in the limelight that he has spent his career avoiding. In the second quarter, Exxon earned $4.15 billion, the highest quarterly profit ever recorded by a U.S. company. In the third quarter, Exxon not only set a new quarterly record of $4.29 billion but also boosted its year-to-date profits to $11.79 billion--more than any corporation has ever netted in a full year.
Exxon Mobil benefited greatly in 2000 from forces beyond Raymond's control--notably sharply rising oil and gas prices. But the company was better-positioned than any other oil giant to capitalize on the price surge, and that was largely Raymond's doing. Under Raymond, a PhD chemical engineer named chairman and CEO in 1994, the company has set new standards of capital and cost efficiency in an industry that has been careening from boom to bust for more than a century. "Exxon is the Rolls Royce engine of the oil business--extremely efficient," says Fadel Gheit, a Fahnestock & Co. analyst.
In 1999, Raymond boldly switched to expansion mode with the $85 billion acquisition of Mobil Corp. With the assimilation of Mobil now well in hand, Raymond is attempting to substantially boost Exxon's output of oil and gas--no small task for a company that already outproduces many OPEC nations. If Exxon can make good on its goal of at least 3% annual growth through 2005, then only retirement can save Lee Raymond from the limelight.