‘Overall, I have no regrets about Gold Fields. I learnt some things there and I left some things behind and hopefully most of those were positive’
ONE of the great unsolved corporate mysteries is why Chris Griffith quit as CEO of Gold Fields in December 2022 in the wake of the group’s failed attempt to take over Yamana Gold. There was no real reason for Griffith to resign. The fact that Gold Fields got outbid by rival Agnico Eagle was proof of the value of the asset the group was after. Gold Fields chair Yunus Suleman has categorically denied any kind of bust-up between Griffith and the Gold Fields board. Griffith himself is saying very little, although interviewed in December he commented: “It wasn’t like we got the plot all wrong.
Ultimately shareholders were saying look, we’re unhappy about that direction. Both the board and I said look, let’s find something different then.” Make of that what you will but it looks like the deal was stymied by the big institutional shareholders. Griffith has now moved onto a new gig as CEO of the base metals division of Vedanta Resources which is to be split off and listed as a separate company. He will also be president of Vedanta’s international business.
Griffith is understandably upbeat about his new position, but he may be letting himself in for a different kind of corporate pressure. Vedanta is a family-controlled business and the market scuttlebutt is that executive chairman Anil Agarwal is a difficult person to work for with a management style bordering on dictatorial. Griffith has two South African predecessors at Vedanta. Former AngloGold Ashanti CEO Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan went there as group CEO in 2018 but lasted only two years. Deshnee Naidoo – former CFO of Anglo American Thermal Coal – worked there as CEO of Vedanta’s Africa base metals over the same period but also moved on.
LIFE OF CHRIS
He holds a BEng degree Hons from the University of Pretoria and spent most of his career at Anglo American, starting at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) where he worked his way steadily up through the ranks. He moved into the upper management of the larger Anglo group, becoming CEO of Kumba Iron Ore from 2008 to 2012 and CEO of Amplats from 2012 to 2020. He steered Amplats successfully through a period of restructuring and confrontation with the South African government all the while answering to his ultimate boss – Anglo American Corporation – which is the major shareholder. Griffith took over as CEO of Gold Fields in April 2021.