LONDON – Ivan Glasenberg said there will be a generational shift at the top of Glencore over the next few years, suggesting a period of upheaval for the world’s largest commodity trader that’s unprecedented in its short history as a public company.
Glasenberg said he’s actively looking for the next CEO and plans to retire in the next three to five years. He also announced the retirement of two top lieutenants and spoke more about the issue of succession than he has ever done in public before.
“It comes a time when the younger generation needs to take over," said Glasenberg, who turns 62 in January. "When I go, I hope it’ll be a 45 year old who will take over."
When asked what the next CEO should look like, he said: "I hope he looks like me."
The comments show that Glencore is preparing for major leadership changes at the same time it faces some of its toughest legal challenges. The company has come under intense pressure following a string of investigations into its dealings in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.
It’s the first time that Glasenberg has publicly talked about a short list of successors and will spark speculation who could be a candidate. In the past, the CEO said he’d stay until being pushed out by a younger, hungrier trader in Glencore’s dog-eat-dog culture. In 2013, he told Bloomberg News there were no talks about succession.
Glasenberg, a workaholic, straight-talking South African who has become the public face of the commodity trading industry, has led Glencore for nearly two decades together with a small group of top traders.
"Do I think it will change with me leaving? I don’t think so," Glasenberg said.
The eventual leadership change also presents another risk. Glasenberg is Glencore’s second-largest shareholder, and Mistakidis its sixth-largest, according to Bloomberg data. Together, Glencore’s management, who listed the commodity trader in 2011, still own about 30% of the shares.
The stock has plunged 23% this year, underperforming the broader FTSE 350 Mining Index.
"I don’t think there’ll be an overhang," Glasenberg said of the departing executives. He said that he wouldn’t sell any shares while at Glencore or within a three-year period of leaving.
Whoever takes over the reins should be about 45 years old at the time of the succession, Glasenberg said, implying that none of the top traders who took the company public are likely to be chosen successor.
The reshuffle Monday gave a few hints at who could be on the shortlist. Gary Nagle, previously head of the company’s ferroalloys assets, was appointed to run its massive coal mining division. Nico Paraskevas, a senior trader, was elevated to run copper trading for the world’s top supplier of the red metal.
Others who would fall into the right age bracket include Kenny Ives, head of nickel trading, and Jyothish George, head of iron-ore.
Still, Glasenberg seems determined to keep the market -- and Glencore’s staff -- guessing. On Monday he said not all of the three to four frontrunners for the job were currently running business lines at the company, suggesting that Glencore-watchers will need to keep a close eye on promotions at the company over the next year or two.
"I’ve got my eye on a few guys. There’s three to four guys who could potentially be there," he said. “Do I see any woman in that pack today? No."
"In three to four years, there may be a woman in that pack," he added.