Obituary: Matthew Simmons

Energy investment banker who was a leading proponent of peak oil theory

• Matthew Simmons, energy investment banker.

• Born: 7 April, 1943, in Utah, United States.

• Died: 8 August, 2010 in Maine, United States, aged 67.

Matt Simmons was a maverick banker who managed to remain part of the energy establishment.

A leading proponent of the peak oil theory, which he explored in his book Twilight in the Desert, he had both controversial views and the vision to identify big trends.

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During BP's attempts to stem the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill he suggested the best plan to plug the well would be to detonate a small nuclear subsea bomb. And at this year's Offshore Technology Conference in Houston he declared: "We are in the early stages of a global train wreck when demand outstrips supply and shortages begin."

He only stepped down in June as chairman of Simmons & Company International, the firm he founded in 1974. He had planned to focus on the Ocean Energy Institute, which he established in 2007 as a think tank and venture capital fund to develop and promote US offshore renewable energy technologies.

Simmons was educated in Salt Lake City, attended the University of Utah and obtained a Masters in business administration from Harvard Business School, achieving distinction on both occasions. He then became an assistant to one of the deans, raised some finance on his own and was introduced to the founder of Oceaneering, Lad Handleman.

Simmons helped raise $300,000 for some diving equipment and that signalled the start of Simmons & Company International. Motivated by the 1973 energy crisis, he created the investment banking firm in 1974, catering to oil companies. It focused on the oil service industry and enjoyed the sometimes frantic growth of that sector through to 1981 when its clients were primarily small to medium-sized companies whose owners had decided it was time to sell.

Most of its investment banking business was merger and acquisition work and by the end of 1981 the firm had grown from three principals and one secretary to 13 staff. Over the prolonged industry downturn from 1982 to 1990, while other financial service firms abandoned the sector, Simmons & Company turned to helping the industry survive. By 1995 it had expanded to cover upstream oil services, midstream and downstream, exploration, production, alternative energy, coal, and the tanker industry - redefining itself as a total energy services firm. In 1998 the company opened its first office outside Houston, in Aberdeen, where Simmons spent a considerable amount of time, visiting four or five times a year, most recently in February.

Today it is one of the largest investment banking practices serving the energy industry with additional operations in London and Dubai.

Simmons had a huge impact on the UK oil and gas industry with many decision-makers relying on his views of the oil price and trends in the industry. Colin Welsh, chief executive of Simmons' international operations said: "Matt had the intellectual curiosity to dig out data that others would ignore, the vision to identify big trends, and the courage to promote a debate in the public domain."

He had been energy adviser to US president George W Bush and was a member of the National Petroleum Council and the Council on Foreign Relations. He latterly focused on the Ocean Energy Institute that he founded, with the aim of making Maine a leader in energy from offshore wind and ocean power.

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Maine governor John E Baldacci described him as a kind and generous man, "an innovative thinker who pushed ideas that have the potential to yield a more environmentally and economically sustainable future for Maine and the world".

Simmons had also been chairman of the National Ocean Industries Association and a trustee of the Farnsworth Art Museum in Maine.

He was as a board member of Brown-Forman Corporation, the Center for Houston's Future, Houston Technology Center, ICIC and The Atlantic Council of The United States of America.

He is survived by his wife, Ellen, and five daughters, Wheeler, Abby, Emma, Winnie and Lydia.


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