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The "Seven Sisters" was a term coined in the 1950s by Italian businessman Enrico Mattei to describe the seven oil companies which formed the "Consortium for Iran" and dominated the global petroleum industry from the mid-1940s to the 1970s. The group comprised Standard Oil of New Jersey and Standard Oil Company of New York (now ExxonMobil); Standard Oil of California, Gulf Oil and Texaco (now Chevron); Royal Dutch Shell; and Anglo-Persian Oil Company (now BP).
In 1973 the members of the Seven Sisters controlled 85% of the world's petroleum reserves but in recent decades the dominance of them and their successor companies has been challenged by the increasing influence of the OPEC cartel and of state-owned oil companies in emerging-market economies.
Composition and history
In 1951 Iran nationalised its oil industry, then controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP), and Iranian oil was subjected to an international embargo. In an effort to bring Iranian oil production back to international markets, the U.S. State Department suggested the creation of a "Consortium" of major oil companies. The "Consortium for Iran" was subsequently formed by the following companies:
Anglo-Persian Oil Company (United Kingdom). This subsequently became Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and then British Petroleum. Following the acquisition of Amoco (which in turn was formerly Standard Oil of Indiana) and Atlantic Richfield it shortened its name to BP in 2000.
Gulf Oil (United States) In 1985 most of Gulf was acquired by Chevron, with smaller parts acquired by BP and Cumberland Farms. A network of service stations in the northeastern United States still bears the Gulf name.
Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands/United Kingdom)
Standard Oil of California ("Socal") (United States) This subsequently became Chevron.
Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso) (United States) This subsequently became Exxon, which renamed itself ExxonMobil following the acquisition of Mobil in 1999.
Standard Oil Co. of New York ("Socony") (United States) This subsequently became Mobil, which was acquired by Exxon in 1999.
Texaco (United States). This was acquired by Chevron in 2001.
The Italian member of parliament Enrico Mattei sought membership for the Italian oil company AGIP, but was rejected by what he dubbed the "Seven Sisters".
Being well-organized and able to negotiate as a cartel, the Seven Sisters were initially able to exert considerable power over Third World oil producers. In recent decades the dominance of the Seven Sisters and their successor companies has been challenged by the increasing influence of the OPEC cartel (formed in 1960), OECD countries' share of world oil production declining, and the emergence of powerful state-owned oil companies in emerging-market economies. As of 2010, the surviving companies from the Seven Sisters are BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell, which form four members of the "supermajors" group.
The "New Seven Sisters"
The Financial Times has used the label the "New Seven Sisters" to describe a group of what it argues are the most influential national oil and gas companies based in countries outside of the OECD. According to the Financial Times this group comprises: