Anglo American: The house that Oppenheimers built, now led by Mark Cutifani – by J Brooks Spector (The Daily Maverick – January 10, 2013)

Late last year, the Daily Maverick described the giant company’s travails in its story, “Anglo American: A giant corporation between a big rock and a very hard place”, and this week Anglo’s board took its decision to end the uncertainty about its new leadership.

For decades, Anglo was South Africa’s pre-eminent industrial and mining enterprise. At one point more than half the value of listed shares on the JSE were Anglo American-controlled enterprises. After the end of Apartheid’s isolation, Anglo began to spin off many of its enterprises that were not part of its core focus on mining. In 1999, Anglo changed its primary listing from the JSE to London. More recently still, Anglo American spun its gold mining interests into a separate corporation that merged with Ghanaian mining interests into AngloGold Ashanti – the same company Cutifani now heads.

Overall, reaction to Cutifani’s selection, so far at least, is generally optimistic. Many analysts are saying plainly Cutifani is probably the best person around for this job, based both on his broad international mining experience and his knowledge of South Africa’s specific social-political-economic circumstances. There are doubters, of course. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) was publicly disappointed that Anglo’s board couldn’t find a single black or female South African to head the multinational.

A deeper, and so-far unanswered, question is why, given the government’s obvious interest in, and the company’s frequently expressed support for, South Africa’s economic transformation, there seems to have been no visible, organised process for grooming a local, black successor generation for Anglo’s top management spots.

For its part, the NUM said it was “disappointed at Anglo American’s decision to appoint Mark Cutifani as its new chief executive officer. Anglo has missed yet another opportunity to appoint either a black or even white South African woman to lead the global entity. The NUM is particularly disappointed at Anglo’s continued resistance to transformation as well as its commitment to hire only foreigners for the top job.”

Putting down what might well become a marker for any future wage negotiations, NUM’s head, Frans Baleni, added, “We urge the newly appointed CEO to show commitment to transformation as well as introduce the global framework agreement with our global federation IndustriALL to ensure the standardisation of conditions of service.” In that regard, there has been some recent public discussion that while it is true that the circumstances of mining operations are often very different, nevertheless, the wages and conditions of employment for South African miners are significantly at variance with – and much lower than – those in other major primary minerals producers like Canada and Australia.

Meanwhile, while it applauded Cutifani’s appointment, one of Anglo’s key institutional investors, South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC), added in a tone a tad curmudgeonly that Cutifani fits the profile of the right person to head the company “fairly well”.

Cutifani’s appointment to head up Anglo starts on 3 April. He’s spent his entire working life in the mining game. Prior to his time at AngloGold Ashanti, where he gets good marks for having carried out a successful restructuring and development of operations in 10 countries, he was chief operating officer at the Canadian company, Vale Inco, where he was responsible for Vale’s global nickel business. Prior to mining giant Vale’s takeover of Inco, he was Inco’s chief operating officer. Before that, Cutifani was at the Normandy Group, Sons of Gwalia, Western Mining Corporation, Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines and CRA (Rio Tinto). Cutifani’s academic background was in mining engineering. In addition to his role at AngloGold, Cutifani is the current president of the South African Chamber of Mines. And he is an Aussie with seven children.

Anglo American’s chairman, Sir John Parker, commenting on Cutifani’s appointment, praised him as “an experienced listed company chief executive with a focus on creating value. He is a seasoned miner, with broad experience of mining operations and projects across a wide range of commodities and geographies, including South Africa and the Americas. Mark is a highly respected leader in the global mining industry, with values strongly aligned to those of Anglo American. We look forward to welcoming him as our chief executive.”

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