Total names Pouyanne and Desmarest at top positions

French oil major Total said on Wednesday Patrick Pouyanne, head of refining up until now, would take over as chief executive and Thierry Desmarest as chairman.

The nominations come a day after the brutal death of Christophe de Margerie in a plane crash in Russia.

Thierry Desmarest
Nelson Ching | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Thierry Desmarest

The appointments were announced in a statement issued after a Total board meeting. The statement said Desmarest would keep his new position until the end of 2015, whereafter the roles of CEO and chairman would be combined again.

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Pouyanne had a key role in merging Total's loss-making refining and petrochemical units in recent years, and also had senior roles at the group's exploration units in Angola and Qatar.

A graduate of France's elite Polytechnique and Mines engineering colleges, he was also an adviser in ministerial offices under previous conservative governments.