- Elf Aquitaine
Elf Aquitaine's heritage is rooted among three French oil companies: Régie Autonome des Pétroles (RAP), Société Nationale des Pétroles d'Aquitaine (SNPA), and Bureau de Recherches de Pétroles (BRP). These companies were formed to exploit the discovery of a gas field in Saint-Marcet in the
Aquitaineregion of south-western France.
In December 1965 RAP and BRP were merged to form Entreprise de Recherches et d'Activités Pétrolières (ERAP). ERAP had SNPA, Union Générale des Pétroles (UGP), and Union Industrielle des Pétroles (UIP) as subsidiaries. The resulting company achieved
vertical integration, owning assets in all phases of the petrol business from exploration and production to the filling station.
On April 28, 1967 the company's disparate brands and products were unified under the Elf brand.
In 1976 Elf-ERAP became Société Nationale Elf Aquitaine (SNEA), later Elf Aquitaine. Elf Aquitaine was listed on the
NYSEin 1991. In 1993 Elf was awarded the exclusive contract to the Iraqi Oil Fields by then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.Fact|date=April 2007 In 1996 the French government sold its stake, retaining a Golden Share. In 2000 Elf Aquitaine merged with Total Fina to form TotalFinaElf, which changed its name to Total in 2003.
The Elf scandal which came to light in 1994 in France was according to "
The Guardian", 'the biggest fraud inquiry in Europe since the Second World War... Elf became a private bank for executives who spent £200 million on political favours, mistresses, jewellery, fine art, villas and apartments'.cite web
last = Cohen
first = Nick
title = The Politics of Sleaze
accessdate = 2007-12-16 ] Iraqi-born
Nadhmi Auchi, at that time rumoured to be among the ten richest men of Britain, received a 15-month suspended sentence and a £1.5m fine for his involvement taking illegal commissions. [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/unwelcome-publicity-for-oil-giant-in-legal-battle-with-billionaire-820750.html] . Auchi was also linked to the Clearstreamscandal. He is BNP Paribas bank's main private share-holder; and until 2001, the money for the Oil-for-Food programmetransited through the escrowaccount of BNP Paribas. Magistrate Eva Jolyinvestigated the case.
From its very beginnings Elf has used motor racing as a means of promotion. It began with a four-year association with
Matrawhich began with a French Formula 3 programme which resulted in Henri Pescarolowinning the title. The European Formula 2 Championship fell to Matra the following year with Jean-Pierre Beltoise. And in 1969 the combination won the Formula 1World Championship with Tyrrell and Jackie Stewart. The aim to win the Le Mans 24 Hourswas not achieved until 1972 by which time Elf and Matra had gone their separate ways. Elf, at that time owned by the French state, then undertook a policy to rebuild and promote French motor racing and so began a new long-term relationship with Renault, which was also owned by the French government at the time. Renault still promotes the use of Elf oils in its road cars, while its F1 racing cars also still carry minor Elf sponsorship.
The most famous of the schemes to promote young drivers dates back to the start of the 1970s when Francois Guiter of the Elf petroleum company established what was known as the "
Volant Elf". The fastest drivers on each course at the Winfield Racing Schools at Magny Cours and Paul Ricardwere asked to return to the school in the autumn to establish who had been the fastest driver of the year. The two winners were each given a full budget to race the following year in Formula Renault. If they were fast enough they would be retained by Elf in Formula 3 and then Formula 2 (or later Formula 3000) and eventually they would get a drive in Formula 1. The first two Pilotes Elf were Patrick Tambayand Didier Pironiand both went on to win Grands Prix. They were followed over the years by Alain Prost, Pascal Fabre, Olivier Grouillard, Paul Belmondo, Eric Bernard, Érik Comasand Olivier Panisall of whom became F1 drivers. In addition Elf often picked up other good drivers and sponsored them, creating a generation of top French drivers in the 1980s and early 1990s.
When Guiter retired Elf decided to change the policy and a revised programme was implemented. This aimed to create a scheme for drivers, mechanics and engineers. It was called "
La Filière" and it now funds as many as eight drivers each year in Formula Renault Elf Campus and four in Formula 3. Unfortunately budgets have been cut and so there is no financial help beyond that and Frenchmen are no longer arriving in F1 as once they were able to do.
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