Seven Sisters (oil companies)
The "Seven Sisters " was a term coined in the 1950s by businessman Enrico Mattei, then-head of the Italian state oil company Eni, to describe the seven oil companies which formed the "Consortium for Iran" cartel and dominated the global petroleum industry from the mid-1940s to the 1970s.12 The group comprised Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now BP); Gulf Oil, Standard Oil of California (SoCal) and Texaco (now Chevron); Royal Dutch Shell; and Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso) and Standard Oil Company of New York (Socony) (now ExxonMobil).3 4
Prior to the oil crisis of 1973, the members of the Seven Sisters controlled around 85 percent of the world's petroleum reserves, but in recent decades the dominance of the companies and their successors has declined as a result of the increasing influence of the OPEC cartel and state-owned oil companies in emerging-market economies.15
In 1951 Iran nationalized its oil industry, then controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP), and Iranian oil was subjected to an international embargo. In an effort to bring Iranian oil production back to international markets, the U.S. State Department suggested the creation of a "Consortium" of major oil companies.6 The "Consortium for Iran" was subsequently formed by the following companies:
- Anglo-Persian Oil Company (United Kingdom): This company subsequently became Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and then British Petroleum. Following the amalgamation of Amoco (which in turn was formerly Standard Oil of Indiana) and Atlantic Richfield into British Petroleum, the name was shortened to BP in 2000.
- Gulf Oil (United States): In 1984 most of Gulf was acquired by SoCal and the enlarged SoCal entity became Chevron.7 The smaller parts of Gulf Oil were acquired by BP and Cumberland Farms. A network of service stations in the northeastern United States still bears the Gulf name.
- Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands/United Kingdom)
- Standard Oil of California (SoCal) (United States): Became Chevron in 1984 when SoCal acquired Gulf Oil.
- Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso) (United States): Subsequently became Exxon, which renamed itself ExxonMobil following the acquisition of Mobil in 1999.
- Standard Oil Co. of New York (Socony) (United States): Subsequently became Mobil, which was acquired by Exxon in 1999 to form ExxonMobil
- Texaco (United States): Acquired by Chevron in 2001.
The head of the Italian state oil company, Enrico Mattei sought membership for the Italian oil company Eni, but was rejected by what he dubbed the "Seven Sisters" - the Anglo-Saxon companies which largely controlled the Middle East’s oil production after World War II.18 British writer Anthony Sampson took over the term when he wrote the book The Seven Sisters in 1975, to describe the shadowy oil cartel, which tried to eliminate competitors and control the world’s oil resource.9
Being well-organized and able to negotiate as a cartel, the Seven Sisters were initially able to exert considerable power over Third World oil producers. However, in recent decades the dominance of the Seven Sisters and their successor companies has been challenged by the following trends:1
- the increasing influence of the OPEC cartel (formed in 1960),
- a declining share of world oil & gas reserves held by OECD countries and
- the emergence of powerful state-owned oil companies in emerging-market economies.
As of 2010, the surviving companies from the Seven Sisters are BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, which form four members of the "supermajors" group.
The Financial Times has used the label the "New Seven Sisters" to describe a group of what it argues are the most influential national oil and gas companies based in countries outside of the OECD.101 According to the Financial Times this group comprises:
- China National Petroleum Corporation (China)
- Gazprom (Russia)
- National Iranian Oil Company (Iran)
- Petrobras (Brazil)
- PDVSA (Venezuela)
- Petronas (Malaysia)
- Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia)
- Hoyos, Carola (11 March 2007). "The new Seven Sisters: oil and gas giants dwarf western rivals". Financial Times. Retrieved 20 October 2013.
- "Business: The Seven Sisters Still Rule". Time. 11 September 1978. Retrieved 24 October 2010.
- "MILESTONES: 1921-1936, The 1928 Red Line Agreement". US Department of State. Retrieved 18 August 2012.
- "Documentary: The Secret of the Seven Sisters". Retrieved 4 May 2013.
- "Shaky industry that runs the world". The Times (South Africa). 24 January 2010. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
- Beltrame, Stefano (2009): Mossadeq. L'Iran, il petrolio, gli Stati Uniti e le radici della Rivoluzione Islamica
- "Company Profile". Chevron.com. Retrieved August 9, 2011.
- Italy: Two-Timing the Seven Sisters, Time Magazine, June 14, 1963
- The Four Horsemen Behind America's Oil Wars, by Dean Henderson, Global Research, April 26, 2011
- "New and Old Leaders in the Upstream Oil Industry". ypenergy.org. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
- Ammann, Daniel (2009). The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich. New York: St. Martin‘s Press. ISBN 0-312-57074-0.
- Anthony Sampson. The Seven Sisters: The Great Oil Companies and the World They Shaped. New York: Viking Press, 1975. ISBN 0-553-20449-1.
- Daniel Yergin. The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991
- Stefano Beltrame, "Mossadeq.L'Iran, il petrolio,gli Stati Uniti e le radici della Rivoluzione Islamica", Rubbettino, 2009. ISBN 978-88-498-2533-6.
- Nico Perrone. Obiettivo Mattei: Petrolio, Stati Uniti e politica dell' ENI (Target Mattei: Oil, United States and ENI Policy). Rome: Gamberetti, 1995
- Nico Perrone. Enrico Mattei. Bologna: il Mulino, 2001
- The Secret of the Seven Sisters . Al Jazeera Englisch, April 2013