Thierry Desmarest/France: Vive Le Private Sector

In the final weeks of 1989, French oilman Thierry Desmarest had little time to consider Eastern Europe's political convulsions. At 44, the soft-spoken but determined executive had just been named head of exploration at Paris-based Total. "And for us, that means the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia, for the most part," Desmarest says. "So I wasn't focused on the Wall."

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