Carlos Bulgheroni, Politics-Savvy Argentine Oilman, Dies at 71

  • He and his brother built Bridas Corp. into global operator
  • Career spanned deals, vast network and talks with Taliban

Carlos Bulgheroni, known as one of Argentina’s most politically astute businessmen, died in the U.S. after struggling to recover from surgery. He was 71.

Bulgheroni, who helped lead Bridas Corp. to become a global operator in energy, had been hospitalized following a June operation, according to a statement from his companies, which didn’t give details on the timing, location and circumstances of his death.

He represented the “fighting spirit” of Argentina and brought his achievements “to the most remote parts of the world,” said the companies, which also include Pan American Energy LLC and Axion Energy.

Bulgheroni and his brother Alejandro took over Bridas, founded by their father in 1948 as a supplier to national oil company YPF SA. They turned Bridas into an important oil producer in its own right, leading to a string of deals with partners including Cnooc Ltd. and BP Plc.

Bulgheroni was famous for cultivating positive and profitable relationships with Argentine administrations across the political spectrum since 1983, even at times when other business executives were abandoning the country. Meanwhile, the brothers developed opportunities in far-flung locations in Asia, even at one point negotiating with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan.

Taliban Talks

Bridas flew a Taliban delegation to Buenos Aires in 1997, shortly after the Islamic militant group had seized control of much of Afghanistan, according to Buenos Aires daily Clarin. Bulgheroni led talks to build a 1,500-kilometer (930-mile) gas pipeline that would have cost $2.5 billion if it had been built and tapped into new-found Bridas reserves in Turkmenistan, Clarin reported in 2001.

Major deals that Bulgheroni oversaw included the 1997 formation with Amoco of Pan American Energy, in which Bridas holds a 40 percent stake. The Bulgheronis then agreed to sell half of Bridas to Cnooc and used the cash to buy Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Argentina assets in 2011.

While BP’s 60 percent stake ensures control of Pan American, Bulgerhoni continued to handle relations with the Argentine government, a crucial distinction in the country’s highly regulated oil industry.

Forbes estimates the Bulgheroni brothers’ combined net worth at $4.8 billion. Argentine media reported Carlos Bulgheroni’s death earlier on Saturday.

Carlos Alberto Bulgheroni was born in Rufino, Argentina, in 1945, according to an online biography from the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, where he was a trustee. He also maintained a home in the U.S. capital.

He was a law graduate of the Universidad de Buenos Aires. He was active in international business and civic groups, according to his CSIS biography. His companies’ statement gave no details about survivors.

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