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Subject: Allen E. Murray, Chief Who Refocused Mobil on Oil

died on Aug. 11
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Date Posted: August 30, 2002 6:07:28 EDT

Allen E. Murray, the former chairman and chief executive of Mobil from 1985 to 1994, died on Aug. 11 in San Diego. He was 73.

The cause was a heart attack, which occurred while Mr. Murray was visiting California, said his son, Allen R. Murray. The elder Mr. Murray lived in Syosset, N.Y.

Mr. Murray took control of Mobil, now part of Exxon Mobil, when it was the third-largest company in the United States but with a future clouded by several flawed investments. Most notably, Mobil had chosen to diversify far afield from oil, buying the Montgomery Ward department store chain and the Container Corporation of America, a paperboard and packaging products company. The businesses, which at the time had anemic earnings, failed to impress Mobil's investors.

After Mr. Murray took over Mobil, he jettisoned the two subsidiaries "at a very good value to shareholders," said Lucio A. Noto, who succeeded him as chairman and chief executive in 1994 and served until 2000.

Plain-spoken and outgoing, Mr. Murray excelled at a company where "shrinking violets would have a little difficulty," as he said in an interview in 1984.

Mobil, which was once Standard Oil of New York, and Mr. Murray were distinctly not of Southern oil-patch stock. Raised in Woodside, Queens, Mr. Murray got his start in the oil business in 1949, when he worked as a mailroom clerk at the New York office of Gulf Oil for 75 cents an hour. He might have stayed at Gulf had he not been passed over for a training program. The first company he approached for a new job was Mobil. He worked in the accounting department while attending college at night.

At most oil companies, the executive ranks are populated largely by former engineers and others who come from the exploration, production and refining operations. But Mr. Noto said Mobil, owing perhaps to its physical proximity to the banking and accounting industries in New York, was mainly run by people from the finance side like Mr. Murray.

Before becoming chairman, Mr. Murray helped negotiate Middle East oil contracts and ran the unit responsible for Mobil's Indonesian businesses when they were being developed in the 1960's and 1970's.

He was promoted to president and chief operating officer of Mobil on Nov. 1, 1984, succeeding his old friend William P. Tavoulareas. Mr. Murray continued his predecessor's practice of speaking out on controversial issues, like supporting Arab countries when they came under criticism, while most other oil companies hugged the walls.

"He was very hands-on, very street-savvy," Mr. Noto said. "If you did something right, he had the courtesy to call and tell you so, and if you did something not so right, he had the plain sense to call and let you know about that, too."

Besides his son, Mr. Murray is survived by his wife of 51 years, Patricia; his daughters, Marilyn Murray, Eileen Murray and Allison Morris, all of Syosset, and Ellen Allen of Pittsburgh; and 10 grandchildren.

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