‘You can’t do something in the back-end of nowhere and expect to get away with it. If you are a global company, it will affect you globally’
IAN Cockerill occupies one toasty hot seat at the moment as the ‘full-time’ CEO of Endeavour Mining following the shock dismissal of Sébastien de Montessus in January. What exactly happened to Endeavour’s highly ranked ESG controls that the board – on which Cockerill served as deputy chairperson – was left completely blindsided by De Montessus’s failure to declare a $5.9m costs order? The order related to security services for an asset under sale, thought to be the Agbaou mine in Côte d’Ivoire. Mysteriously, De Montessus hasn’t named the security provider, which raises concerns it could be a less than agreeable player in West Africa’s political jambalaya.
It certainly puts Cockerill in tension with shareholders. They will want to know if this is the end of the affair; he may be unable to give that assurance. Meanwhile there’s speculation that Endeavour is now the next target of gold sector consolidation. A buyer is not obvious, but De Montessus’s alleged indiscretion means Endeavour is trading at an even larger discount than usual. This is, of course, a great pity given its rapid climb up the gold ranks under De Montessus, who may choose to defend himself, potentially inflaming the negative newsflow. As for Cockerill, Endeavour could be seen as a ‘redemption shot’.
His last major executive role was as CEO of Anglo Coal in 2008, which lasted only 18 months owing to a falling out with then CEO of Anglo American Cynthia Carroll. The much-admired former CEO of Gold Fields, Cockerill will at least have the backing of another former CEO of a JSE gold producer, none other than Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan, who ran AngloGold Ashanti and is now Endeavour’s chairperson.
LIFE OF IAN
Cockerill attended the UK’s Royal School of Mines from which he graduated to the school of hard knocks in South Africa’s rugged gold mining sector. Mine manager for the likes of AngloGold’s Elandsrand and Western Deep Levels, Cockerill eventually landed up as CEO of Gold Fields, where he rebuffed Harmony Gold’s spectacular takeover attempt. After Anglo Coal he took up a string of non-executive roles including one at BHP and Russia-focused Polymetal Group before resigning in 2022 amid the invasion of Ukraine