President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly close to picking ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to lead the U.S. State Department.
A senior transition official told Reuters that Tillerson is now the favored candidate to serve as Secretary of State after former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani withdrew his name from consideration.
Trump is expected to formally announce his pick for the nation’s top diplomatic post as early as this week.
Sources told NBC News that Tillerson has informed Exxon’s board about the potential appointment.
In a Twitter post, Trump said that, whoever he taps for head the State Department, Tillerson is a “world class player and dealmaker.”
Tillerson is slated to retire from his Exxon post next year when he turns 65, the company’s mandatory retirement age.
Tillerson has expressed opposition to sanctions against Russia, where his firm has partnerships with state-owned Rosneft.
During Exxon’s 2014 shareholders meeting, Tillerson said Exxon believes that sanctions are usually not effective and can cause “broad collateral damage.”
“We do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively and that’s a very hard thing to do,” Tillerson said according to a transcript seen by NBC News.
In late 2014, Exxon was forced to wind down its $600 million Kara Sea project after U.S. sanctions were tightened following Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
ExxonMobil is partnered with Rosneft at the Universitetskaya-1 license where the Kara Sea project is located.
Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship in 2013, about two years after Exxon inked a strategic cooperation deal with Rosneft.
According to the New York Times, Tillerson said at a 2008 business forum in Russia “must improve the functioning of its judicial system and it judiciary.”
If nominated, Tillerson is expected to face push back from Congressional legislators including Republican members of the senate.
Senator John McCain told CBS News that Tillerson’s “close personal relationship” with Putin is a matter of “concern.”
Exxon has not commented on the matter.