Julie Shuttleworth at Cloudbreak ore processing facility.JPGBillionaire mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has unveiled a “new dawn” at Fortescue Metals Group, announcing that two women would lead the miner, with Elizabeth Gaines to be the next chief executive and Julie Shuttleworth to be deputy CEO in a series of leadership changes at the company.
It is a history-making announcement, given it is touted as the first time women have been appointed CEO and deputy CEO of a major Australian ASX-listed mining company.
The two female appointments represented half of four leadership appointments announced by Mr Forrest on Thursday, the major shareholder and chairman of the company. All four, which included a new chief operating officer (Greg Lilleyman) and a new chief financial officer (Ian Wells), were internal appointments.
Mr Forrest praised the appointees, describing Ms Gaines and Ms Shuttleworth as “a really phenomenal team” who got their positions on ability.
“The best people were appointed to these four positions, regardless of gender,” he said.
Ms Gaines, the miner’s chief financial officer, will become just the third CEO of the company, which was founded in 2003. She will succeed the highly regarded Nev Power.
“She has shown to her board that she has all the ability of a first-class leader,” Mr Forrest said.
In a media call shortly after the changes were unveiled, Ms Gaines, who was raised in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, acknowledged that the history-making element of the announcement would be “of interest” to people.
She also said: “I think it is an important signal to corporate Australia, around the importance of having diversity at the C-suite, not just around the board table. And there’s been quite a bit of progress made at a board level, but I think for the C-suite, there does need to be greater focus. And if these appointments actually bring that into focus I think that’s a good thing.”
At which point Mr Forrest added: “It’s a valuable by-product.”
Ms Gaines, 54, also said she was humbled and privileged to be selected as the next CEO of the Perth-based miner, one of the biggest iron ore producers in Australia. She joined Fortescue in 2013 as a non-executive director, and become CFO in early 2017.
Mr Forrest said the new leadership team would mark “a smooth transition of cultural change”, and the new leaders were expected to be in their new positions in early 2018.
“All four appointments are internal. I think that speaks volumes for the leadership of this company,” he said.
“This team brings together a group of incredible individuals who are ingrained with Fortescue’s culture, who all possess the experience, talent and personal values required to lead our company’s new direction. Collectively, they will champion Fortescue’s unique culture, which is built on the strength of our family values, looking out for your mates and having the courage and determination to set immensely challenging stretch targets and to, in general, deliver against them.”
Ms Shuttleworth, most recently general manager of Fortescue’s Solomon operations, said she was thrilled to be appointed deputy CEO. She said that the appointment of two female leaders by the miner would be “an inspiration to other women” across Australia.
Also on Thursday Mr Forrest said it was a “target” of Fortescue’s that in future, though he didn’t set a timetable, that “a majority” of the company’s iron ore production would have iron grades greater than 60 per cent.
This year Fortescue’s revenue from iron ore sales to China have been affected by the push by Chinese authorities to cut pollution. The push is hitting Chinese steel makers and having ramifications for miners, because iron ore is a key ingredient in steel making.
To address concerns over pollution, Chinese steelmakers are favouring ore with higher iron grades, which they pay higher prices for. Fortescue sells ore with iron grades of about 58.5 per cent, which attracts a lower price than the industry benchmark.
In October, when Fortescue released its September 2017 quarterly production report, Mr Power said the discounts for its iron ore were continuing for longer than expected “because of the continuing supply-side reform interventions” in China. At the time, Fortescue also lowered its price guidance for fiscal 2018.
Shares in Fortescue eased 2?? on Thursday, to close at $4.60.
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