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Glencore and Xstrata’s chief executives’ links go back to university days

Category : Business

The real drivers behind the deal were Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive of Glencore and his Xstrata counterpart Mick Davis

To prevent leaks, the codename for the takeover of Xstrata by Glencore was “Everest”. The name was apt – both Sir John Bond, the chairman of Xstrata, and Simon Murray, the chairman of Glencore, are keen mountaineers.

Bond’s daughter Annabelle is an accomplished mountaineer who has scaled Everest – a feat that prompted him to visit the base camp.

Bond, who is best known for his four decade career at HSBC, is to become chairman of the enlarged mining and trading organisation. An international banker, his HSBC career began in Hong Kong where he arrived having earned his sea passage from California by mopping floors on the ship.

It was not immediately clear what role would be handed to Murray, who once sat on the board of Vodafone, where Bond has also been chairman. Murray caused a row over sexism shortly after he was appointed chairman of Glencore to help facilitate its stock market flotation, when he said women were a risk to hire because they took nine months off to have children.

Murray and Bond, both septuagenarians, are thought to be well acquainted through connections in Hong Kong, though sources close to the deal insisted they were bit part players in the talks. The real drivers were Ivan Glasenberg, chief executive of Glencore, and his counterpart Mick Davis. Despite the fact that Glencore is in effect taking over Xstrata, Davis comes out top as chief executive with Glasenberg as his deputy. The pair have known each other since their days at Witwatersrand University in South Africa but have not always seen eye to eye.

Until last year Glencore was kept private, away from the glare of the stock market, while Xstrata was a public company embarking on high profile acquisitions. Glencore, which owns 34% of Xstrata, made life tricky for Davis during a rights issue in which it refused to participate in the cash call.

The flotation of Glencore last year marked the beginnings of the rehabilitation of Tony Hayward, the former chief executive of BP whose reputation was undermined by the Gulf of Mexico disaster. He became a non-executive director of Glencore as the company listed, and then popped up as a partner to the billionaire financier Nat Rothschild in an oil venture called Vallares. There is speculation Hayward will take on the crucial role of senior independent director of the enlarged company, though it was not clear last night whether he had secured that role over David Rough, the former fund manager who holds the same position at Xstrata.

The Rothshild connections run deep. Rothschild is a personal friend of Glasenberg’s. Before Glencore appointed Murray as chairman, Glasenberg called Rothschild to obtain Murray’s mobile phone number.

Meanwhile, Glasenberg sits on the board of Rusal, the aluminium group run by Rothschild’s close contact Oleg Deripaska and where Glencore and Rothschild are leading investors. Rothschild was also a pre-flotation investor in Glencore, while the prospectus of Rothschild’s coal mining group Vallar mentions Glencore 73 times, an indication of the importance of the trading group’s long-term marketing deals with the group’s assets.

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