She suffered sexism in the City, but there were highs
In one of the most infamous business interviews of recent times, Anglo American’s Cynthia Carroll was written off by a former deputy chairman of her company in a few harsh words. “This woman’s hopeless,” he said.
As chief executive of South Africa’s Anglo American, which is listed in London, Carroll is the ultimate outsider doing what has been dubbed the “toughest job in mining”.
So, in some ways at least, it’s probably safe to assume she is looking fondly towards life after Friday, when she is scheduled to make her final public appearance for the company. She announces annual results for the sixth and last time before stepping down from the helm on 3 April.
Carroll was Anglo American’s first female – and first non-South African – chief executive. If that wasn’t enough, she came to the top job from outside Anglo American, where the tradition had previously been to hand the position to a well-groomed insider.
She was finally forced to resign in October after months of pressure from shareholders, who are likely to feel vindicated by the latest set of results. Carroll, a straight-talking American, is set to announce a near-50 per cent decline in full-year operating profit, from $11bn (£7bn) in 2011 to an estimated $6bn last year – not much of a parting shot. Anglo American’s bottom line suffered from falling commodity prices, rising costs and wildcat strikes at its South African platinum operation, which pushed the subsidiary into the red.
Analysts say that Carroll undoubtedly made mistakes during her tenure, in particular over her decision to buy the entire Minas Rio iron ore project in Brazil, which is now billions of dollars over budget and five years behind schedule.
However, according to a Charles Stanley analyst, Tom Gidley-Kitchin, she also did a lot of things right in what is an extremely difficult job.”She’s moved Anglo American in the right direction and freshened up the group as a whole.
“But you could say that maybe the task was too much for any one person to take on,” he says.
Carroll’s achievements include significantly tidying up the unfocused, bureaucratic sprawl she inherited in March 2007, improving relations with the South African government, reducing the company’s heavy reliance on its homeland by prospecting abroad and greatly improving its poor safety record.
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