BHP Billiton Ltd.’s decision to look past boardroom veterans and name its youngest director Ken MacKenzie as chairman is raising expectations of further changes in leadership and its portfolio as the mining giant grapples with smoldering shareholder unrest.
While BHP’s most restive investor Elliott Management Corp. welcomed the appointment Friday, billionaire Paul Singer’s hedge fund also called on MacKenzie, 53, to address the No. 1 miner’s performance, review the executive team and nominate new directors. Under the new chairman, there may be management changes and there’s increased potential for the sale of U.S. shale assets, Citigroup Inc. said in a note.
MacKenzie plans to meet investors over the coming weeks before taking up his post from Sept. 1, and aims to “understand their perspectives,” he said in a statement. His plan will be seen as an “olive branch” after more than two months of public skirmishes over strategy and spending between BHP and critics including Elliott, according to Shaw and Partners Ltd. BHP declined to confirm whether MacKenzie will meet with Elliott.
Montreal-born MacKenzie, a skier and yachtsman, joined BHP’s board in September 2016 after lifting the market value of global packaging packaging giant Amcor Ltd. by more than 150 percent in a decade-long spell as chief executive officer that ended in 2015.
MacKenzie, who spent 23 years at Amcor, was praised by investors during his tenure for implementing programs to cut costs, shed or close under-performing assets and craft leading positions in key market segments. He oversaw about $6 billion of deals, including acquisitions of Rio Tinto Group packaging assets for the pharmaceutical, healthcare and personal care industries.
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