THE LUNCH: The skinny on ex-Xstrata boss Mick Davis and X2 – by Eric Reguly (Globe and Mail – March 13, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

LONDON — There’s a lot less to Mick Davis than there used to be.

Let’s start with the man himself. When he was running Xstrata PLC, the mining company he sold to Glencore PLC, the world’s biggest commodities trader, in 2013, he was a big man – “Big Mick,” they called him. He topped out at 317 pounds and had developed Type 2 diabetes. In the interests of survival, he launched a hostile raid on his own girth. Today, Big Mick is on the verge of skinny, at 196 pounds, a downsizing so successful that he no longer has to take diabetes medications.

I ask him how he did it. “You eat less, exercise more, and stick to it,” he says. “I took up cycling and I love it.”  His day job has shrunk too, even more so. At its peak just before the 2008 financial crisis, Xstrata, which bought Canada’s Falconbridge Ltd. in 2006, had a market value of about $85-billion (U.S.), making it the fourth- or fifth-largest mining company in the world, with almost 70,000 employees and contractors.

Today, he runs X2 Resources, which has 10 employees and zero assets other than $4-billion of investor capital, some of it from Canadian pension funds, sitting idly in the bank.

X2 was launched a year ago and has been shopping for mining assets or operating companies, but has come up short. Mr. Davis admits he is finding it harder to buy now than in the previous decade, when he spent $35-billion on 40 rapid-fire acquisitions in one of the greatest bull runs in history. “We’ve given some people an expression of interest,” he said. “I expect to do a deal this year.”

I meet the slim edition of Mr. Davis at X2’s offices in Almack House, in the heart of imperial London, just off Pall Mall and St. James’s Square. His offices are instantly familiar. In fact, they are the same offices used by Xstrata. Bowls of fruit are placed here and there, just like in the old Xstrata days, though I could not imagine any visitor gobbling a banana before meeting the boss. I certainly don’t, though I sneak a grape or two.

Mr. Davis’s own office is big and comfortable, with a red sofa and two red armchairs. It’s 10 a.m. – too late for breakfast, too early for lunch – and Mr. Davis’s assistant, Joyce, arrives with a caffe Americano for me, a tea for Mr. Davis and a plate of biscuits. They go untouched, of course, for Mr. Davis, 56, has no intention of breaking his rigorous, anti-sugar diet.

He is wearing his trademark John Lennon-style round glasses, a blue jacket, blue tie, pink shirt, suspenders, silver cufflinks, an apparently inexpensive electronic watch and, on his right wrist, a hefty silver bracelet. It is engraved with the opening sentence of the Shema, an important prayer in Judaism. It was a gift from his wife, Barbara, a lawyer who is also an accomplished silversmith. His children – two daughters and a son – wear similar bracelets.

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