Gold Fields CEO-elect, Chris Griffith didn’t interview for AngloGold …”nor did anyone else”

The beautifully appointed Turbine Hall, Johannesburg, in which AngloGold HQ is found.

THE appointment of Chris Griffith as CEO of Gold Fields raises questions about AngloGold Ashanti’s progress in finding a permanent CEO of its own.

According to Griffith, speaking today in a conference call following his unveiling as CEO-elect of Gold Fields, stated that AngloGold Ashanti had not started its executive search at the time he was interviewing for the post at Gold Fields during the tail-end of last year.

“AGA [AngloGold] hadn’t commenced it [the executive search process], and is only commencing its search now,” he said. “I didn’t interview for that position, and nor did anyone else.”

AngloGold’s decision not to move with urgency with finding a successor comes amid executive flux in the company. Chairman, Sipho Pityana, quit the company in December, about six months after it suffered the departure of its CEO, Kelvin Dushnisky – around the time Gold Fields CEO, Nick Holland, also announced his imminent departure.

Maria Ramos, a respected member of the South African business environment, was been appointed the new chairperson in the place of Pityana.

In the meantime, AngloGold is being led by interim CEO, Christine Ramon. There were initial market rumours that the company would approach Griffith, among others, but since then Ramon has established herself at the company.

Ramon, the former CFO of giant petrochemicals group, Sasol, has established authority over the group by reintroducing the dividend, overseeing the conclusion of a competitively priced bond, and reinstating guidance.

The departure of Pityana without apparent explanation, and so soon after Dushnisky, appears to be a board-level problem, said an analyst who asked not to be named. He said the market was being left to draw its own conclusions.

Miningmx reported last year that AngloGold – with a head office in Johannesburg but no South African assets, and the opportunity for a favourable primary listing in the UK most likely gone – is vulnerable to a takeover.

Barrick Gold’s CEO, Mark Bristow, has said the continued consolidation of the gold sector is a necessity. Barrick would be a willing buyer of Kibali in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the gold mine it shares with AngloGold. AngloGold also owns Geita in Tanzania where Bristow’s Barrick has formed a new joint venture with the Tanzanian government.

But it may need a partner to help it disjoint AngloGold.

Interestingly, Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, told Bloomberg News recently that the company was interested in buying more gold assets, adding: “M&A is what we are good at. We have created value and we are going to continue to create value in the right way at the right time.”