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Bill Mooney - Tribute to 'Industry Builder'
By Bill Whitelaw
He was an industry giant.
And in an age in which such terms are so casually and loosely bandied about, it's good to know that there is still someone against whom that definition can be authentically measured.
But if you suggested to Bill Mooney that Canada's oil and gas sector owed him a huge debt, he would grimace and point to someone else's achievements.
That's how he was.
A gentleman and a gentleman in every sense.
Bill Mooney's passing at 87 last week should not be lost in the turmoil that currently characterizes the oil and gas sector's travails; for he defined this industry's essence in times of boom and in times of bust. He was that rarest of breeds: a good man motivated by the purest of intentions of what was best for a nation-building sector.
In the tough times, he became tougher — not in the rough-and-tumble sense of the word, but more resilient, more creative and more determined to move through the adversity.
He was "that guy" — someone who put the industry's interests in the foreground and let whatever commercial interests were at hand draft in behind.
He built companies, to be sure. But there are lots of company builders. Bill Mooney's industry building contributions were at a foundational level. He was humble to a fault, and would have been surprised at that attribution, yet his achievements in that context were truly substantive of the deals he brokered.
He was also exceedingly generous in spirit; there were not too many good causes in which he didn't take an interest and leaned into to ensure their success.
There are so many ways to tell the Bill Mooney story; multiple perspectives from which to assess the man and his impact.
Perhaps one of the best vantage points is that of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame; he was among its first builders and backers in the late 1990s. He understood and anticipated one thing implicitly: that the industry's stories are best told through the experiences and legacies of its doers. He was a Hall of Fame nurturer and for years he served as the emcee of its annual induction dinners.
He was famed for his sense of humour; his delivery was deadpan and dry, enhanced by a perfect sense of timing. But while his comedic routine enhanced and lightened the night's festivities, he really shone when he introduced that year's inductees. His connections were as wide as they were deep; he always took the audience even deeper into the nuances of inductees and their achievements — way beyond even the compelling official biographies.
Those personal insights, enhanced by special storytelling, made the evening more intimate and more special.
Bill Mooney also defined another special dimension of Canada's oil sector: the guy from the neighbouring province who moved to Alberta to show that province how things are done in Saskatchewan. He was a member of that province's Hall of Fame, and as well as the national Hall of Fame, among the many honours and accolades that flowed his way.
Bill Mooney was a mover and a shaker but he moved quietly and shook gently. His modesty and humility belied a huge passion for this sector that is noticeably absent today among leaders.
Bill Mooney came from an era when a handshake was surety and a napkin did the trick as a preliminary document. He was there as the industry was learning to define itself; cutting its teeth in manner of speaking as it moved from the shadows into the intense gaze of government and public scrutiny. His touch made the shift smoother.
He was, by definition, an oil and gas giant.
They don't make them like Bill Mooney anymore.
With his passing, that mould was broken.
And that's a good thing, because some shoes should never be filled.
Bill Whitelaw is president and CEO of JuneWarren-Nickle's Energy Group. He is chairman of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame.