FMG eyes new era post-Power
Fortescue Metals chairman Andrew Forrest says his next chief executive will be charged with overseeing a new phase of growth at the nation’s third-biggest iron ore miner that could see it branch out of the mining industry, after managing director Nev Power yesterday gave notice he would step down at the start of next year.
Mr Power will retire in February after a period in which he took the company Forrest had set on track to be one of the world’s biggest iron ore miners and completed its growth program. Then, as markets turned for the worse, Mr Power put the company on a stable footing with a strong balance sheet, low costs and reliable operations.
Fortescue operations director Greg Lilleyman is seen as the leading internal candidate to succeed Mr Power. Mr Lilleyman joined the company in January after leaving Rio Tinto’s executive committee.
Finance director Elizabeth Gaines, a former Helloworld chief executive who was also appointed in January from the ranks of Fortescue’s independent directors, is also seen as a potential candidate. But Mr Forrest said the company would also conduct an external search.
“Fortescue will be entering a period of growth, without using its balance sheet, taking large bets with its reputation and allowing other investors to come with us on that,” Mr Forrest said after an- nouncing Mr Power’s retirement.
“Nev sees that as a new era of growth for the company, and if an optimal duration of a chief executive is five to eight years, then this is a great time (for a transition) and I applaud his judgment.”
Mr Power’s strong standing among investors was evident in the reaction of the share price after the announcement — it fell 4 per cent to $5.57 yesterday.
Mr Forrest paid tribute to Mr Power, who became Fortescue’s second chief executive in July 2011, after joining the company as chief operating officer six months earlier. “He really has executed his duty to the highest degree and met or exceeded the often unreasonable standards set by his board,” Mr Forrest said. “We could not be more pleased with his stewardship and respect his decision that it is time for the next chapter of Fortescue to begin.”
The chairman said he was sad to see Mr Power go, but that he was excited about the next growth phase for Fortescue.
Mr Power, a Queenslander who Mr Forrest described as the hardest worker he had ever met, said he had not had more than three weeks off in one go since he left school at 15 to joint Mount Isa Mines. “When I joined Fortescue almost seven years ago I was absolutely enthralled by what the company had achieved in such a small space of time, and some seven years later I continue to be enthralled about what the Fortescue team are achieving,” Mr Power said. “I’m looking forward to taking some time off and working on a few of my personal business interests including helping my son on the cattle station.”