The search for a chief executive to replace Marius Kloppers could lead BHP Billiton beyond the mining industry, a nonexecutive board member told The Wall Street Journal.
Several internal candidates are being considered for the position, but BHP has hired a recruiter to help it search externally and outside the mining industry to eventually replace Kloppers, according to Lindsay Maxsted, Westpac Banking Corp. chairman and BHP director.
Kloppers took over as head of BHP in October 2007 and has led the Melbourne-based company longer than the three previous chief executives. BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company by market value, was created in 2001 with the merger of Australia’s BHP Ltd. and London-listed Billiton PLC.
Kloppers, a South Africa-born executive has seen his reputation suffer because of failed bids for Rio Tinto and Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. Also, the company had to take a US$2.8 billion impairment charge last year on the acquisition of shale assets in the U.S. ahead of a slump in the U.S. price of gas.
BHP Chairman Jacques Nasser endorsed Kloppers in August when he said the company was very fortunate to have his leadership. Nasser was appointed chairman in March 2010 following an 18-month selection process that used international recruitment firm Heidrick & Struggles as an independent adviser.
Kloppers, 50, joined predecessor Billiton’s aluminum business in 1993 and rose through the ranks to the position of chief marketing officer. He was appointed chief commercial officer in late 2003 and president of the nonferrous materials division in early 2006 when he also joined the board.
Analysts have suggested possible Kloppers successors include Alberto Calderon, the head of the aluminum and nickel division; Andrew Mackenzie, head of the nonferrous business; Marcus Randolph, the head of head of ferrous and coal operations and Michael Yeager, the head of the petroleum division.