Naimi gestures in Doha, Qatar.
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A visit to Ali al-Naimi's oak-panelled office in Riyadh is a journey through history. The world's most powerful oil man is known to show guests the totems of his long career, from the rock formations that have blessed the kingdom, to pictures of the dignitaries he has met over two decades of diplomatic management of the forces of supply, demand, and speculation. Riyadh's refusal to prop up the crashing oil price has upended the world oil industry, most visibly affecting higher-cost output including US shale producers -- the segment of the energy sector that has forced Mr Naimi into battle.The kingdom's economy has also taken a battering, sparking growing criticism over a Mr Naimi plan that masochistically devalues the commodity on which the Saudi state so heavily relies. If he is feeling the jitters, Mr Naimi hides it well. Born in Saudi Arabia's oil-rich eastern province in 1935, shortly after its oil reserves were first explored by American companies, Mr Naimi tended sheep before getting his first taste of the energy sector.Although Mr Naimi knew the state oil company intimately, he had little experience of high-level international oil politics."Once his mind is made up, there is no persuading him," says a former Opec official.Given his unrivalled ability to move oil markets, Mr Naimi is treated like a celebrity during Opec meetings.
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