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Friday, 6 December, 2002, 15:33 GMT
Paul O'Neill: A profile
US treasury secretary Paul O'Neill
US Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who announced his resignation on Friday, had a distinguished career in public service and in industry before taking over as the Bush administration's finance chief.

Sworn in as Treasury Secretary on 20 January 2001, Mr O'Neill had previously worked as chairman and chief executive of Alcoa, the world's biggest aluminium producer, between 1987 and 1999.

As Alcoa boss, Mr O'Neill ran a multinational business with 140,000 employees spread across 36 countries.

Before that, he had put in a 10 year stint at the world's leading paper and forestry products company, International Paper, where he served first as vice-president, and then president.

Public service

He first gained expertise in US economic affairs at the US Office of Budget and Management, which he joined in 1967. He was the OBM's deputy director between 1974 and 1977, under Presidents Nixon and Ford.

During his time as deputy budget chief, Mr O'Neill worked with US vice president Dick Cheney, and Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve.

Economists and analysts have paid tribute to Mr O'Neill.

However, his term as Treasury chief coincided with a steep economic downturn and a spate of corporate scandals which triggered a slump in global share prices.

He was touring central Asia during the worst of the stock market falls in July this year, and came under fire for failing to make public statements to talk up investor confidence.

Commentators compared him unfavourably to his Democratic predecessor, Robert Rubin, who appeared in public during the 1998 financial crisis.

Gaffes

His outspoken comments - including his description of the Enron collapse as an example of the "genius of capitalism" - caused some raised eyebrows.

And his remark that international aid to Brazil could end up going "out of the country to Swiss bank accounts" provoked a run on the Brazilian currency and caused a minor diplomatic incident.

Mr O'Neill, 67, graduated in economics from Fresno State College in California, and later gained a masters degree in public administration from Indiana University.


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