Beheadings are putting the mining world through something akin to the French Revolution.
Mining bosses who landed their jobs in the bubble era – 2006 and 2007 – or did their signature top-of-the-market deals in those years are being fired with alacrity. Or they are announcing their retirements, much to the delight of shareholders grown weary of the value destruction borne of stunningly overpriced takeovers and soaring costs.
The changing of the guard started in the autumn, when Cynthia Carroll said she would quit as chief executive officer of Anglo American. Not long after, BHP Billiton, the world’s top mining company, revealed that it would replace Marius Kloppers, the man who made a wrong bet on shale gas and botched the attempted takeover of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan (the new CEO is Scotsman Andrew Mackenzie). Last month, it was Rio Tinto boss Tom Albanese’s turn. The biggest sinner of them all, he was knocked off for his boneheaded purchase of Montreal’s Alcan in 2007 for $37-billion (U.S.), most of which has now been written off.
Canadian mining bosses have been frog-marched to the guillotine too – Tye Burt of Kinross Gold and Aaron Regent of Barrick Gold were two of the late 2012 victims. A year earlier, Roger Agnelli was pushed out of Vale, the Brazilian company that paid an eye-watering price for Canada’s Inco.
The last man standing is Ivan Glasenberg, the Glencore International CEO who is about to become the head of the mining and trading colossus to be formed by the merger of Glencore and Xstrata, the Anglo-Swiss miner that owns Falconbridge.