Marc Rich, the commodities trader who founded Glencore and is credited with inventing the spot market for oil, has died aged 78 after suffering a stroke at a hospital in Lucerne, company spokesman Christian König said on Wednesday June 26.

Rich – who started his career at Philipp Brothers before founding Marc Rich + Co with Phibro colleague Pincus Green – came to the attention of the wider world in 1983, when he was indicted by US authorities for wire fraud, tax evasion and breaking a trading embargo with Iran, and was later placed on the FBI’s most-wanted list.

Having fled to Switzerland hours before the indictment, Rich spent the next decade building Marc Rich + Co into the largest metals trading company in the world, before selling his stake to senior management, who renamed it Glencore.

After spending 17 years in exile, pursued by federal prosecutors – including Rudy Giuliani, who would later become mayor of New York – Rich was controversially pardoned by US president Bill Clinton on his last day in office in 2001.

Rich continued to live in Switzerland after the pardon and until 2003 he ran Marc Rich & Co Investment AG, before selling it to Crown Resources. MRI Trading, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marc Rich & Co, was later acquired by storage and logistics group CWT in a deal that valued the company at $127 million.

Despite his one-time status as the world’s most famous fugitive, Rich rarely revealed details about his professional or personal life until 2009, when Switzerland-based journalist Daniel Ammann published The King of Oil – The Secret Lives of Marc Rich, based on extensive interviews with Rich.

Rich was awarded three honorary doctorates in recognition of his philanthropic work and he established various foundations during his lifetime, including the Swiss Foundation for the Doron Prize and the Marc Rich Foundation for Education, Culture and Welfare.

Towards the end of his life he ran Marc Rich + Co Holding as a family office for the Rich family. He is survived by his daughters Ilona Schachter-Rich and Danielle Kilstock Rich, and their families, a spokesman said in a statement on Wednesday.

Mark Burton
Twitter: @mburtonmb