Transition with little drama at BHP
Andrew Mackenzie was the favourite to take over from Marius Kloppers as chief executive of the world’s biggest mining company and BHP has as usual handled the transition with a minimum of drama.
One of the questions to answer now is whether this appointment shakes out some executives who either considered they werre contenders or feel that their prospects will dim.
In his sixth year at the helm, Klopppers will stand down as CEO on May 10. Mackenzie will take over and join BHP’s board on the same day. The transition period starts now, and extends past the formal changeover date, with Kloppers staying on the payroll until October 1 this year.
Stepping down ... Marius Kloppers announces his retirement. Photo: Nick Moir
Scottish-raised Mackenzie is different to Kloppers - more voluble in conversation, for one thing. His background also includes years in the petroleum industry at the top of BP, something that is perhaps a pointer to where BHP is heading.
Following its controversial $US20 billion expansion into shale oil and gas in the United States the group’s petroleum division is set to become a much bigger and more complex part of BHP’s business. Mackenzie will be able to steer it with confidence.
The two are alike in one important respect. Both are usually the brightest person in the room, wherever they are. The 56-year old Mackenzie grew up in the industrial town of Kirkintilloch near Glasgow and launched his career as geologist and organic geochemist.
Taking the reins ... Andrew Mackenzie will take over as chief executive of BHP from Marius Kloppers. Photo: Supplied
He has a PhD in chemistry and has published over 50 research papers. He has also been a research fellow with the British Geological Society, a Humboldt Fellow, and has worked at the Nuclear Research Centre in Julich, Germany.
In a 22-year career with BP ahead of his arrival at BHP in 2007, where he was of Marius Kloppers’ first hirings as CEO, he held roles including head of capital markets – in that role he wrote algorthmic software that allowed BP to gain an edge of its competitors in managing its interest-rate exposure – head of government and public affairs and chief reservoir engineer with oversight of the group’s oil and gas reserves and production.
One of the questions to answer now is whether this appointment shakes out some executives who either considered they were contenders or feel that their prospects will dim with Mackenzie in charge.
Contenders included group executive and chief executive ferrous and coal Marcus Randolph, and group executive and chief executive aluminium, nickel and corporate development, Alberto Calderon.
BHP always very carefully stages its sucession plans, however, and the odds are good that the change will be smooth.
As for Kloppers, his tenure of more than five years at the top of BHP will in important ways be distinguished not by what he acquired or built, but by what he avoided.
He took over in October 2007, just as the global crisis was brewing. In the middle of it BHP launched a takeover offer for Rio Tinto, and Kloppers’ decision to withdraw the bid as the crisis escalated in 2008 is probably his defining moment.
It pulled BHP back onto its own assets, and as the crisis and its aftermath of unstable economic growth around the world rolled out their undeniable quality shone through.