LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Orin Atkins, who turned what is now Ashland Inc. into a major player in the international energy market, died Friday in Dallas. He was 82.
Atkins joined Ashland as a lawyer in 1950, when it was known as Ashland Oil. He served as the company's CEO from 1965-1981, leading it to unprecedented heights while also struggling to keep it out of legal trouble.
Ashland was the largest corporation based in Kentucky at the time of Atkins' departure.
"He developed a brilliant insight into negotiating and purchasing companies which led to Ashland's growth," said longtime friend Jack Jenkins.
Ashland Oil was a regional refining company when Atkins took over in 1965. When he left, the company's sales had risen from $450 million to nearly $10 billion.
Still, Atkins' tenure was not without trouble. The Charleston Gazette reported in 2005 that Ashland "illegally slipped" $100,000 in campaign contributions to Richard Nixon and was cited by the Securities and Exchange Commission for paying $29 million in bribes to get oil from Oman.
Atkins was sentenced to two years' probation in 1990 for trying to sell confidential company documents to Iran.
Atkins remained busy after leaving Ashland, working as the director of Tampimex Oil Trading and serving as the chairman of the advisory board at Marshall University.
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