Dr. Armand Hammer and his colorful life

On this day, May 21 in the year 1898, the owner and long-time Chairman of Occidental Petroleum was born in New York, USA. His name was Armand Hammer who led a colorful life as an avid art collector, a Democratic Party supporter, and a philanthropist. He also became famous for his close ties to the former Soviet Union.

Armand Hammer
Armand Hammer (Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times)

Hammer’s father was a physician and a pharmaceutical retailer. He was indicted and imprisoned for the death of a pregnant client. Though he was a physician by profession, Hammer did not practice it. Instead, he devoted his entire life in business. After graduating from Columbia University Medical School, he expanded his father’s drug business through export and import. He travelled and actually lived in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. There, he engaged in the pencil and stationery business and at the same the agent of several American companies. This paved the way to a friendship with the Russian dictator Lenin.

Hammer invested in other businesses which ranged from chemicals and whisky to beer and broadcasting. But it is his investment in Occidental Petroleum that really occupied most his time and that would make him a very wealthy man. His petroleum business led him to Libya and soon became the largest oil producer there. In the early 1970s, he gave up 51% ownership of his company to the Libyan government and also agreed to a 30% increase in the price of oil. Other oil companies soon followed and thus set the stage for the oil crisis that engulfed the world economy during that time.

In 1976, Hammer was indicted for illegal contribution to the campaign of President Richard Nixon but in 1989, he was pardoned by President Bush. He gave a lot of his money to philanthropy such as education and cancer research. He wrote two autobiographies, one in 1932 and another in 1987.
Hammer died in 1990 at the age of 92. He left one son by his Russian wife whom he divorced. He married twice later but he did not bear any child.

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