Rio Tinto appoints one of its own as the company’s new chairman

Simon Thompson, leader of the firm’s remuneration committee, to assume in March

World’s second largest miner Rio Tinto (ASX, LON, NYSE:RIO) ended Monday a nine-month search for a new chairman, announcing industry veteran Simon Thompson as the person who will assume the post in March.

The appointment of Thompson (58), one of Rio Tinto’s non-executive directors, who is a former investment banker and senior executive with Anglo American (LON:AAL), follows a flurry of speculation about the person to succeed chairman Jan du Plessis.

The most commented name was former Xstrata chief Mick Davis, but it’s said Rio abandoned the plan to recruit him due to investors pressure.

One of the first and most important tasks facing Thompson will be dealing with US regulators who have charged Rio with fraud over a failed coal acquisition in Mozambique.

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office is also investigating the mining giant over dubious payments made to an external consultant over the Simandou iron ore project in Guinea.

Addressing those charges the miner said it intended to “vigorously” defend itself against these allegations.”

According to Rio’s chief financial officer, Chris Lynch, the company would look “very similar” to how it looks today, under its new chairman.

“I would imagine zero change in strategy, I think it’s a good continuity move and I look forward to working with Simon going forward.

“He’s a guy that’s got a deep knowledge of the industry and he’s been on the board now for a couple of years, been part of the formulation of this strategy. So I think shareholders should expect pretty much continuation of business as usual really,” he said.

More to come…

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