STUART Brown’s impressive delivery of Firestone’s flagship Liqhobong mine in Lesotho, on schedule and within its revised budget, has silenced the sceptics and done wonders for the company’s share price. Firmer diamond prices have helped a bit, too. Firestone’s shares trebled in 2016. Ironically Brown, a former De Beers Group executive, has successfully developed a mine that De Beers itself did not rank very highly when it discovered it, 60 years ago, because of its remote location. In the past three years since his appointment, he has managed the building of a massive mine geared to produce a million carats a year in a high, narrow valley as well as the necessary infrastructure to support it. It hasn’t been all plain sailing for Firestone, though. After an extended sale process, its efforts to sell its BK11 asset in Botswana recently fell through because Tango Mining could not meet the conditions precedent. Firestone would have raised about $8m from the sale, but even without that assistance it expects to have cash in the bank and a backup finance facility to get through the first months of production. Brown’s efficiency and easy manner with investors and media help to explain why he rose rapidly up the De Beers career ladder.
LIFE OF STUART
He was acting joint CEO of De Beers Group at the tender age of 49 when he left shortly after the permanent appointment of Philippe Mellier as CEO. He joined the group as an internal auditor in 1992 and became CFO only 14 years later. After army service, he spent three months as manager of the well-known South African fast-food restaurant chain, Spur.
“People are relying on me because we borrowed a lot of money that we have to pay back.”
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