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Personality of December

Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian  

the Personality of December

Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian was born in 1869. he was the son  of a weathy Armenian merchant family from Istanbul.  He attende the  King's College in London and graduated in engineering. Afterwards his father who among other things was in the lamp oil business, had  him  inspect the oil fields around the Caucasian city of Baku, Russia. And so his career in the petroleum industry started at the early age of  21and it lasted more than six decades.

After the Armenian massacres in 1896 the Gulbenkian family set off to England, leaving Turkey. They maintained however influential business and government connections which eventually enabled  Calouste to secure a concession for the British-owned Turkish Petroleum Company in order to explore oil in the Ottoman Empire. At the time it included Iraq and some parts of Arabia as well. Calouste Gulbenkian  had a 40 percent share in the company.  Later, after the war and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire,  in 1928, it became the Iraq Petroleum Company (I.P.C.), which gathered four large national oil companies —British Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, Compagnie Française des Petroles and the U.S. companies Esso and Mobil—each company had a share of 23.75 percent. Gulbenkian was able to keep only five percent.

Gulbenkian wanted  his share of I.P.C.'s profits to be paid in cash and refused the offer of one British penny per ton of crude;  he asked for one shilling instead. Then he made sure that the shilling was not in paper but in gold. He was given the nichname: Mr. Gold Shilling.

The years that followed little was heard or said about Gulbenkian, who led a quiet life.

During the Second World War Gulbenkian moved to Lisbon.  He spent his last 13 years in the Aviz Hotel. Apart from his business he always showed great interest for art, his passion. Gulbenkian long dreamed of creating a charitable and cultural foundation with a museum, so that he could keep his money and art together. His wish was to start and run it while he was still alive, but he was only able to prepare a will, saying that an international foundation should be established in Portugal. Gulbenkian died in 1955, and today the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, in Lisbon, sponsors in the name of a remarkable businessman and lover of art through the Gulbenkian Museum. The foundation also gives support to other type of educational and charitable activity in Portugal and many parts of the world.

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