Calouste Gulbenkian Biography, Armenian Oil Financier Life Story


Who was Calouste Sarkia Gulbenkian? Information on Calouste Gulbenkian biography, life story and business career.

Calouste Gulbenkian


Calouste Sarkia Gulbenkian; (1869-1955), Armenian oil financier, who pioneered in developing the oil resources of the Middle East. He was born in Scutari (later Üsküdar), Türkiye, on March 23, 1869, and was educated in France and Britain. He became a British subject in 1902. After some experience as a partner in the kerosine business with his father, he investigated the possibilties of large petroleum finds in Asiatic Turkey. His favorable reports to Turkish and British interests were justified by large discoveries in Masjid in 1908. From that time he participated in most negotiations between the great powers and the sultan over concessions in Türkiye.

Gulbenkian was valuable to the British-controlled Turkish Petroleum Co. in dealing with the shaky Turkish government and later with Iraq, the new state formed from a large part of Asiatic Turkey after World War I. The firm was later reorganized as the Iraq Petroleum Co., with Gulbenkian as a founder and large stockholder. In 1928 the company assigned its near-monopoly to four groups—British, Dutch, Anglo-Persian, and American—and gave a 5% share to Gulbenkian; hence his nickname, “Mr. 5%.”

Gulbenkian gave much of his fortune to Armenian religious and educational institutions in London, Jerusalem, and Lisbon. He left his great art collection to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, established in Lisbon. He died in Lisbon on July 20, 1955.

What is Calouste Gulbenkian’s greatest achievement?

Calouste Gulbenkian was a wealthy Armenian businessman and philanthropist. He is perhaps best known for his role in the development of the oil industry in the Middle East, particularly the establishment of the Iraq Petroleum Company. He is also known for his extensive art collection and for his charitable work, including the establishment of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which supports a wide range of cultural, educational, and scientific initiatives.


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