Whither Mr Cockerill?

[miningmx.com] — IAN Cockerill last week described the job for which he was leaving Gold Fields as among the most “intriguing’ he’d received.

“I get job offers from time to time,’ he said with typical elan in a conference call to journalists. “I’d give it 30 seconds and then say “no.’’

This was how Cockerill described his usual treatment of corporate headhunters, although I doubt he was as peremptory when Newmont Mining, the North American gold miner, knelt at his executive hand last year, so market chit-chat had it.

Nevertheless, an announcement this morning has duly revealed it was none other than Anglo American that came knocking at his door. The “evil empire’, as it was known, once employed Cockerill as new business director of its then gold progeny, AngloGold Ashanti. Today, however, Cockerill will be CEO of Anglo Coal.

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But one wonders why divisional head status – Anglo Coal is not separately listed – would intrigue an executive such as Cockerill who, at 55 years, is in his puce and prime?

Surely Gold Fields could not be given up lightly?

Apart from the fact that it’s a major player in the world gold scene, much of what frames the company has Cockerill’s stamp upon it: the purchase (for cash) of South Deep and the liquidation of a hedge book that came with it. There’s also no ignoring these are boom times for gold miners – at least at the revenue line.

One accepts the possibility Cockerill may have been nearing the end of his executive shelf life at Gold Fields but, actually, that sounds like PR spin at its best.

So one theory doing the rounds is that Cockerill’s position at Anglo Coal is but a sojourn; a staging post on the way to richer climes.

Says one unnamed gold analyst: “Intriguing could mean: “Hey, Ian, you’ve just landed in the top echelon of Anglo American; hey, Ian, we’ve got bigger things for you to do’’. He suggested Cockerill could move on to a technical directorship within Anglo American.

In the meantime, Cockerill’s appointment seems to overshadow another Anglo appointment: that of Kuseni Dlamini as “head’ of Anglo American SA. Is this the role vacated by Lazarus Zim several years ago?

Zim was CEO of Anglo American SA before he left, probably because he recognised pretty early on the position was merely window dressing. Government asked of Anglo American that Zim’s successor be black. That request has been met (finally), but the change of designation indicates the role is now not as important.