Dismissed CEO of gas giant Orlen says he turned it into the strongest Polish global brand

During the tenure of the ousted CEO Daniel Obajtek, Orlen became one of the top 50 largest companies in Europe

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Agnieszka Łakoma
Polish energy giant Orlen CEO Daniel Obajtek speaks in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, April 17, 2023, during a news conference announcing plans for some $4 billion in U.S. financing for the development of small nuclear power reactors in Poland, which is turning toward renewable and noóózero-emissions energy. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Daniel Obajtek, the CEO of state energy giant Orlen, the largest firm in Poland and the entire Central and Eastern Europe region, has been dismissed from his position by the government’s representatives in the state-owned conglomerate.

His dismissal was inevitable as the new left-liberal government has signaled that it would be making sweeping changes across all state companies. The new coalition saw Obajtek as a close ally of the previous conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government and the architect of a controversial merger with another state company, Lotos, that resulted in a deal with Saudi Arabia’s Aramco. 

At a meeting with Orlen employees following the announcement of his dismissal, Obajtek emphasized the scale of development the company had undergone under his leadership.

“We went from a fourth-division club to the Champions League. The company is leading the investment processes and fuel transformation of our country,” he said. Obajtek added that according to market research, 81 percent of Poles believed that having such a large company was good for the country. 

The outgoing CEO argued that the company’s business record is the most important, and it had been assessed well by rating agencies. He pointed to the fact that the company’s income had grown from €20 billion in 2015 to over €80 billion in 2023, and that its investment program had grown from less than €1 billion to nearly €10 billion over the same period. 

Obajtek also said that one of the most important achievements was to get Poland away from being dependent on Russian fossil fuels, something that would not have been possible without Saudi supplies. Upon his departure, Obajtek told staff that he was leaving behind plans for further expansion and hoped that his successors would not abandon them but rather add to them. 

The 48-year-old Daniel Obajtek, a former small-town mayor, was plucked from relative obscurity in 2018 to head Orlen. Since his arrival, the company has experienced a period of rapid growth that included a number of mergers and acquisitions, mainly involving other Polish state energy firms, such as the gas company PGNiG, Energa and Lotos. 

He oversaw an ambitious expansion of Orlen, resulting in it becoming one of the largest 50 companies in Europe. Last year, Orlen was ranked as the 44th largest company in Europe by the business magazine Fortune, the only firm in the Central and Eastern Europe region between Germany and Russia to make it into the top 50.

Orlen has also expanded internationally, and now has seven refineries in Poland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania as well as more than 3,000 gas stations in seven countries, serving more than 15 million customers in the region.

As a result, Orlen is now a global energy player both in the area of fossil fuels and renewable energy sources including offshore wind, and the company has also made moves to invest in small nuclear reactors. 

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