Norwegian Amoco: among odd parties, spies and lobster

Norwegian oil boom began in the late 1960s, especially after the discovery of the Ekofisk field by Phillips Petroleum in 1969.

Among the most important companies in the country there was Amoco, known not only for its activities, but also for its extravagance and its luxurious events. Let’s discover its history, with the help of valuable materials from our friends at the Norsk Oljemuseum (Norwegian Petroleum Museum) in Stavanger.

Origins: Christmas parties and industrial espionage

Amoco Norway was founded in 1965; in the same year, it started a cooperation with NOCO (Norwegian Oil Consortium, first private oil company in Norway) creating the “AmocoNoco” company.

In 1974 Amoco relocated to Stavanger. Here a new corporate event was introduced: the annual Christmas party at Atlantic Hall. All employees (always with elegant suits) were hosted in the r hotel rooms, even with the growth of the company.

1974 and 1975 were the turning point, with the discovery of Hod and Valhall fields; information used during the exploration were partially obtained with seismic data collected by other oil companies, strictly monitored by an undercover fishing boat. These unorthodox methods, bordering on espionage, were strongly criticised.

1980s. Luxurious events and crisis

When Valhall began production in 1982, Amoco decided to organize a sumptuous (and expensive!) inaugural ceremony; 240 guests (with political figures and managers) were invited to the luxurious banquet!

The menu was very refined, and it included Pâté de foie gras, local lobster and French wild strawberries, all accompanied by champagne.

The managing director, Robert Schlup, didn’t like giving speeches, so he preferred to organize a ceremony with a slide-show (using 12 modern projectors), music and light effects. He only welcomed the guests, in what is considered the shortest and most expensive speech in the company’s history.

A similar event for employees took place some weeks later, with the presence of Norwegian famous musicians.

Anyway, the 1980s were a difficult period for Amoco, with revenues below expectations and a conflict with the government about taxes.

Late in the decade, a more modern management philosophy was introduced, in order to stimulate creativity of the employees.

The final years and the merger with BP

In the 1990s, the company started again to grow. With a bigger staff, Amoco decided to renew its headquarter, and in 1994 a new, odd building was inaugurated. The modern structure, which symbolized the new impetus of the company, had an original canteen shaped as a ship’s hull.

THE NEW AMOCO OFFICE AT BEKHUSKAIEN IN STAVANGER (PHOTO: NORSK FLY & FLYFOTO/NORWEGIAN PETROLEUM MUSEUM)

Everything unexpectedly ended in 1998, when the merger between Amoco and BP was announced. The operation would lead to a drastic staff reduction, causing insecurity and melancholy among employees.

On 31th December 1998, just before the merger, Amoco decided to top it off with its last extravagant party.

In the “hull” canteen, employees and their families celebrated the new year in a surreal atmosphere; Amoco gifted them handkerchiefs with a black border and a goblet shaped as a horn, with the inscription “The End”.

In the following years, the Christmas party was deleted and the new BP management decided to maintain a more sober and discrete profile. Even Amoco building was not used for long.

In conclusion, the turn of the millennium coincided with the end of an era of Norway oil history.

Marco Mocchetti

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