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Mining group Anglo American sprang a triple surprise on Tuesday when it unveiled Cynthia Carroll as its new chief executive following months of speculation.
Ms Carroll, currently chief executive of Alcan Primary Metal, a unit of the Canadian aluminium producer, is the first non-South African and first external candidate to head the company, and the first woman to head a big mining group.
She is due to take over from current chief executive Tony Trahar on March 1.
The board of Anglo American is thought to have sought an external candidate to bring fresh blood. There has been heavy speculation about who would succeed Mr Trahar since April, when he said he would retire early. Anglo American is understood to have approached several executives from the mining and metals industries for the job, including Philippe Varin of steelmaker Corus.
Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Anglo American chairman, said that he first met Ms Carroll at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. By June she was on Anglo’s shortlist of candidates, and spent time meeting board members in London and Johannesburg.
Sir Mark said other candidates had been looked at, and “there were at least two people who said they would be interested in principle but they had made other commitments”. But he said that in the final phase of selection “we did not offer the job to anyone but Cynthia”.
Ms Carroll said it was an honour to take over at Anglo American. “Anglo American has a unique collection of assets, skilled and dedicated people, financial and technical strengths, and a strong underpinning of values and sense of responsibility,” she said.
Mr Trahar, 57, has been chief executive since 2000 and has worked for the company since 1974. He took over after Anglo moved its listing from Johannesburg to London, and set about focusing on mining businesses.
This process has continued this year, with the sale of shares in AngloGold, the South African gold producer, the disposal of Highveld Steel of South Africa, and the decision to demerge Mondi, Anglo’s paper and packaging business.
Mr Trahar is a former head of Mondi, and hopes to oversee its listing on the London Stock Exchange.
The listing is scheduled for the end of this year, but may be held up while Anglo waits to hear from the South African authorities whether Mondi shares will be classed as foreign or domestic stock, and how this will affect South African shareholders.
Anglo’s London-traded shares fell 36p, or 1.5 per cent, to £23.79 ($44.53, €35.48) on Tuesday, after analysts said Ms Carroll’s appointment made an imminent takeover less likely.
METALS GURU: CYNTHIA CARROLL
Educated University of Kansas, MSc Geology; Harvard, MBA
1981 Started as petroleum geologist for Amoco in Denver
1989 Joined Alcan of Canada
1991 Alcan foil packaging division, Kentucky
1996 Alcan in Ireland
1998-2002 President of Alcan's bauxite, alumina and speciality chemicals group
2002 Chief executive of Alcan's Primary Metal group, in charge of 18,000 employees in 20 countries
Salary Basic at Anglo American will be £900,000 a year. Annual bonus of up to 150 per cent of salary, half in shares
Married with four children