Chris Griffith steps down as Gold Fields CEO weeks after failed bid for Yamana Gold

Chris Griffith, CEO, Vedanta Base Metal.

CHRIS Griffith has stepped down as CEO of Gold Fields with effect from December 31 weeks after accepting defeat in his efforts to conclude the $6bn takeover Yamana Gold.

In a brief statement, Gold Fields chairman Yunus Suleman said the company would be led on an interim basis by Martin Preece, executive vice president of Gold Fields’ South African operations. 

In an email to staff obtained by Miningmx, Griffith said: “I know that many of you will have questions about this news. I will be addressing our people via the year-end Teams calls that have been scheduled for tomorrow and we can talk a bit more about this then”.

Suleman is also expected to address staff today.

As suggested by the email, the development is a shock especially as Griffith said in November that should the company’s bid for Yamana fail: “We don’t have to jump off the balcony”.

“We are in a position of strength at the moment, but there are other options out there,” he added at the time.

Griffith was appointed in April 2021 after former CEO Nick Holland reached retirement age after 13 years in the job.

A year later, Griffith launched the offer for Yamana Gold, a bold swing at reversing the decline in Godl Fields’s production from about 2026/7. After encountering initial opposition to the deal it looked as if Griffith was winning over shareholders.

However, his hopes were dealt a fatal blow after a combined superior offer for Yamana Gold was tabled by Pan American Palladium and Agnicos-Eagle on November 4.

Commenting on November 9, Griffith bridled against questions that his job might be in jeopardy.  “The board has given its complete support to our strategy of increasing Gold Fields’ portfolio quality,” he said.

“You will have to test that by asking the chairperson [Yumus Suleman],” when asked for further details.

Pushed or jumped?

The obvious question in the wake of sudden departures of leaders is whether they were pushed or they jumped?

Griffith said previously that if the Yamana deal failed the company would look at a number of other deals having lined up production replacement and growth possibilities as part of running the due diligence over Yamana.

One possibility is that Griffith sought board support for continuing his strategy of aggressive merger and acquisition activity, but in the wake of the shareholder resistance to Yamana the board suggested a different route.

Whatever happens now, Gold Fields is left with a gaping hole among the ranks of its senior executives. In addition to Griffith, the company has already accepted the resignations of its top lawyer, head of strategy, and head of investor relations.

Brett Mattison, executive vice president of strategy, planning and corporate development, Taryn Leishman, executive vice president: group head of legal and compliance, and Avishkar Nagaser, executive vice president: Investor relations and corporate affairs resigned in October in the midst of the Yamana bid.