The chief executive of French oil major Total, Christophe de Margerie, was killed when his private jet collided with a snow plough as it was taking off from Moscow's Vnukovo airport on Monday night.
De Margerie's death leaves a void at the top of one of the world's biggest listed oil firms at a difficult time for the industry as oil prices fall and state-backed competitors keep them out of some of the best oil exploration territory.
The collision occurred minutes before midnight Moscow time as de Margerie's Dassault Falcon jet was taking off for Paris.
Russia's Investigative Committee said the driver of the snow plough had been drunk and that a criminal investigation had been launched. The plane's three crew also died, said Total. The airport said visibility was 350 meters (1,150 feet) at the time of the crash.
Vnukovo is Moscow's oldest and third biggest airport. Located southwest of the capital, it is used by Russian President Vladimir Putin and other government officials.
De Margerie, 63, had attended a Russian government meeting on foreign investment in Gorki near Moscow on Monday.
With his distinctive bushy moustache and outspoken manner, he was one of the most recognizable of the world's top oil executives. Total is France's second-biggest listed company, with a market value of 102 billion euros.
"France is losing an extraordinary business leader who turned Total into a world giant," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement. "France is losing a great industry captain and a patriot."
De Margerie was also a personal friend of French President Francois Hollande, who said he was "stunned and saddened" by the news. Accolades poured in from other French business leaders.
De Margerie became Total's CEO in 2007, taking on the additional role of chairman in May 2010, after previously running its exploration and production division.
He said in July that he should be judged on the new projects launched on his watch, including such as a string of African fields.