The meteoric rise of a CEO

2013-01-13 10:00

Mark Cutifani, the 54-year old mining engineer who was this week appointed as the new chief executive of Anglo American, comes from a working-class family, having financed his studies through working in the coal mines of Australia – his country of birth.

It was the start of what became a nomadic 35-year mining career across six continents in more than 25 countries.

It is his exposure in South Africa, South America and Australia – the three key areas of Anglo American’s operations – that probably ticked all the boxes for Anglo American, a company that operates in diamonds, coal, copper, iron ore and platinum group metals, as well as nickel.

Sir John Parker, chairman of Anglo American, earlier this week said Cutifani’s appointment was a “unanimous decision”.

“It was a very important issue for us to have someone with broad experience across our commodity base,” Parker said. “Mark ticked most of the options.”

Cutifani will officially take up the position on April 3, replacing the incumbent Cynthia Carroll.

A newcomer to South Africa’s mining industry when he landed the job as chief executive of AngloGold Ashanti in 2007, an appointment which saw him relocate to Johannesburg, Cutifani made an impression not only for his business acumen but also for his straight-talking, yet disarming, way of dealing with people and organisations.

“I was born into a working-class family,” he said when first introduced to the press in 2007. “I educated myself while working.”

More telling about his style was an interview Cutifani did with online mining news service, Miningmx, in 2011 when he said he uses the work of Canadian psychologist, Elliot James, as a guiding philosophy in instilling an organisational culture.

This framework sketches a sympathetic approach to work behaviour as it trusts capability and distrusts organisations. An ineffective organisation is a question of inappropriate structure, not because you’ve employed ineffective people.

It was this people-orientated style that made him a quick favourite in South Africa’s mining scene and culminated in his taking up the role as president of the Chamber of Mines in 2012.

Cutifani’s appointment has generally been well received by the markets, as exemplified in a note by London’s Numis Securities to clients earlier this week:

“Cutifani has been chief executive of AngloGold Ashanti since 2007 and is widely regarded to have had a successful tenure, leading a successful restructuring campaign across the business,” said Numis analyst Cailey Barker. “Worth the money and a good hire in our view.”

Similarly complementary was the opinion of South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which holds 7% of Anglo American.

“Mark fits the profile fairly well as he has broad experience in mining operations and projects across a wide range of commodities and geographies,” the PIC said in a statement.

Less flattering was the response from the National Union of Mineworkers. Although the union did not question Cutifani’s expertise or suitability, it said the appointment was another missed opportunity “to appoint either a black or even white South African woman”.

“The mining sector remains lily white at the top and at board level, with a sprinkling of black here and there,” the union said.

What he'll earn

»?Basic salary: £1.2?million (R16.8?million) per year;

»?Pension: 30% of basic salary;

»?Short bonuses:

Up to 87.5% of basic salary in cash and up to 87.5% of basic salary in shares;

»?Long-term bonus: Up to 350% of basic salary in shares; and

»?Bonuses forfeited for leaving AngloGold Ashanti: £2.38?million (R33?million) in shares.

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