ANGLO-American’s chief executive Cynthia Carroll has quit, after coming under pressure from investors who were disappointed by the mining firm’s share price and continued dependence on troubled South Africa.
A geologist by training, New Jersey-born Ms Carroll became the first non-South African to take the top job at Anglo in 2007.
Brushing aside suggestions she was pushed into leaving, Ms Carroll and chairman John Parker, said there had been “differences of opinion” with shareholders but the decision to step down was her own, as she approached a seventh year in a “very gruelling and demanding role”.
Ms Carroll has been praised by many investors for her efforts to streamline a colonial mining firm which had become a sprawling conglomerate.
She also cut billions of dollars in costs and took steps to shift Anglo’s centre of gravity away from South Africa. A campaign to improve ties with South Africa’s government was also praised by analysts. But her relationship with investors became more troubled after big-ticket acquisitions like the Minas Rio iron ore project in Brazil, which became mired in cost overruns and delays.
Anglo has yet to give a final cost for the project it bought in a £3.4bn deal at the top of the commodities cycle.
“Institutional pressure has been building for some time to replace Cynthia, so the news will be welcomed,” one of Anglo’s 15 largest shareholders said.
“Ultimately, running Anglo is one of the toughest jobs around and, although Cynthia made a good start as CEO, the feeling is the company has gone backwards in the last two to three years.”
Other investors also pointed to a mixed record at the top.
“Her strategic moves didn’t always hit the mark. The acquisition of Minas Rio, promptly followed by a dividend cut, was a particular low point,” another of Anglo’s 15 top investors said.
Anglo scrapped its 2008 dividend to preserve cash.
Crippling strikes in platinum and iron ore mines in South Africa in recent weeks have revived long-standing worries over Anglo’s exposure to the country.
Despite her cost cutting, under Ms Carroll, Anglo has lost one-third of its value on a US dollar market capitalisation basis and is now worth $25bn less, according to analysts at Macquarie,
Other major miners are worth at least the same as they were at the start of 2007.
The board said it would not rush to pick a successor for Ms Carroll and that the 55-year-old would stay in place until a replacement was appointed, which could take months.