A file picture taken on April 13, 2000, shows Rem Vyakhirev head of the Russian gas giant Gazprom gesturing after his meeting with President-elect Vladimir Putin in Moscow's Kremlin. AFP photo
MOSCOW: Rem Vyakhirev, the chief executive who turned Russian state gas firm Gazprom into a global giant after the collapse of the USSR, has died, the company announced. He was aged 78.
Vyakhirev, dubbed the "gas king" in Russia for his domination of the gas sector, was appointed to head the newly restructured Joint Stock Company Gazprom in 1992 by then president Boris Yeltsin.
He stepped down after a tumultuous decade in charge that saw the company partially privatised in chaotic circumstances and order restored after Russia brushed with economic meltdown in 1998.
After his resignation as chief executive, Vyakhirev became Gazprom board chairman but resigned after the shortest of periods in 2002 and was thereafter virtually invisible in public life.
Vyakhirev began his energy career in the 1950s in the Volga region before rising to be deputy gas industry minister of the USSR in 1983.
"He worked everywhere giving all his energy with a feeling of personal responsibility for carrying something out," Gazprom said in a statement paying tribute.
Reports said that he died at his dacha outside Moscow from heart problems late on Monday.
Gazprom grew out of the USSR's gas industry ministry and was partly privatised from 1993 in the much-criticised sale of state assets in post-Soviet Russia.
It is has grown into a cornerstone of the modern Russian state under President Vladimir Putin, a key earner of foreign currency revenues for the budget and a major source of the Kremlin's political influence. (AFP)