Ian Taylor, who built Vitol into the world's biggest oil trader, has died from pneumonia at the age of 64, the company said on Tuesday, after surviving bouts of cancer and a stroke last year.
Oxford University graduate Taylor, one of Britain's richest businessmen, was chairman of the Royal Opera House until 2019, a Conservative party donor and saved iconic clothing brand Harris Tweed from bankruptcy.
"Ian was an exceptional man. He combined energy and a determination to succeed with humility, humour and humanity," Russell Hardy, his successor as Vitol CEO, said in a statement.
Taylor, who began his career at Shell in 1978 and worked in South America and southeast Asia before joining Vitol in 1985, turned down the offer of a knighthood from former British Prime Minister David Cameron in 2016.
He became group President and CEO of Vitol in 1995, turning the once modest Dutch fuel dealer into a trading operation that spanned the world and became the biggest trading rival to the big players such as BP and Shell, by poaching top staff.
"He challenged all of us to be the best we could be. We owe him a great deal," Hardy added.
Taylor stepped down in 2018 as CEO of privately-owned Vitol, which is run from London and last year traded around 8 million barrels of oil per day.
Under the British executive, Vitol carried on trading Iranian fuel oil in 2012, despite US sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama.
Taylor told The Times newspaper last year that he was first diagnosed with throat cancer in his late fifties and would donate funds to build the proton beam therapy machine that saved his life in London.