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Rick George Built Suncor Into Canada’s Biggest Oil Company by Injecting Hope

When Rick George arrived in 1991 at the Canadian oil company now known as Suncor Energy Inc., he found a morose workforce wondering when, not if, the firm would collapse. Many regarded its core mission, extracting oil profitably from the gooey oil sands of the Athabasca River basin in Alberta, as impossible.

Production costs were far above the price fetched by the oil, and Mr. George was told only modest reductions in those costs were possible. With his fresh eyes, he spotted the problem: The machinery used to gouge into…

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