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LONDON, England -- John Browne was once said to be one of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's favorite businessmen and held one of the highest-profile positions in British industry.
But the former BP chief executive closely guarded his private life during his 12-year tenure at the helm of one of the world's biggest oil companies.
Browne, a friend of Tony Blair, joined BP in 1966 with a first-class degree in physics from Cambridge.
He became chief executive of the company in 1995 -- at 45 one of the youngest men to take control of a FTSE 100 company -- and was credited with turning the company around from a struggling oil firm into one of the most successful energy businesses in the world.
The tagline "beyond petroleum" was introduced during his tenure as chief executive, and he oversaw BP's expansion trail into the U.S., involving a number of takeovers, including a merger with US oil group Amoco in 1998.
His services to industry were rewarded with a knighthood the same year, before he was made a life peer -- Lord Browne of Madingley -- in 2001.
Browne's links with Blair also earned him a place on the UK Sustainable Development Commission and rumors had been circling that he was considering launching a venture capitalist firm with Blair when he stepped down from government.
But Browne has had more troubled times recently as a series of high-profile scandals rocked BP over the past two years, including a major oil leak in Alaska last year and an explosion at its Texas refinery that killed 15 people.
The oil major was rapped over process safety failings at its U.S. oil refineries in an independent report commissioned in the wake of the 2005 Texas City explosion.
BP has also come under pressure to improve performance after recent falling profits in what is said to be one of toughest trading periods in its history.
Aside from his corporate profile, however, little is known of Lord Browne himself.
The son of a British Army officer and Hungarian Auschwitz survivor, he studied Physics at Cambridge University and also holds an MS in Business from Stanford University in California.
He is unmarried and all that is known of his hobbies is that he reportedly has a range of interests, including the arts, antique furniture and fine cigars.
Browne was one of the youngest men to take control of a FTSE 100 company.