May 19th, 2005
De Beers' chief executive Gary Ralfe will step down in February next year and will be replaced by the head of the diamond company's marketing division, Gareth Penny, writes Business Day.
Ralfe has overseen a dramatic transformation of the company, through its recent delisting and uncoupling from Anglo, and its move to a more market-oriented sales strategy involving 'Suppliers of choice' — a select group of customers who buy diamonds from De Beers at regular sales known as sights.
“I am confident, along with other shareholders of De Beers, that under Gareth’s leadership, De Beers will continue with the record performance of the past few years,” said chairman Nicky Oppenheimer.
“Ralfe has changed the business model and he has changed it pretty well,” said an analyst.
He said, however, that a disappointing factor had been the company’s failure to discover new diamond resources.
The analyst described Capetonian Penny, 42, as a “young Turk, who is the rising star in De Beers”.
However, he cautioned that there may be tensions between Penny and Jonathan Oppenheimer, who heads the company’s local mining operations. Penny is skilled in marketing but has little experience of the mining side of De Beers, he said.
Five of De Beers’ South African operations are unprofitable, and the company has said it may have to close some mines.