Anglo American Platinum chief executive Chris Griffith said yesterday that he felt this was the ideal time for him to hand over the baton and pursue new opportunities. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
Anglo American Platinum chief executive Chris Griffith said yesterday that he felt this was the ideal time for him to hand over the baton and pursue new opportunities. Photo: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Griffith to quit Anglo after riding a crest of success

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Feb 18, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG – Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) chief executive Chris Griffith on Monday shocked the market when he announced that he would step down in April, seven years after being at the helm of the company that has gone from loss-making to being drunk with cash.

The surprise resignation by Griffith, 55, comes as the platinum group metals (PGM) basket has rebounded significantly, giving producers breathing room to address debt.

Griffith – who juggled furiously to attract shareholders amid striking a balance between demands from organised labour, communities and the government – told journalists during a conference call yesterday that he felt this was the ideal time for him to hand over the baton and pursue new opportunities.

“I will be looking for the next challenge,” said Griffith, who was previously chief executive at Kumba Iron Ore, Africa’s biggest iron ore producer. “I believe that I have the energy and potential to take on something new.”

Griffith gave credit to the company’s leadership team, including the board, for making it possible for Amplats to reduce debt, cut cash-burning production and improve its safety record at a time when the turbulent price environment necessitated a major shake-up of the platinum sector in South Africa. He previously served Amplats’ parent company, Anglo American plc, for 30 years. “The big things we wanted to do with the company, we have done,” he said.

Griffith joined Amplats just after the Marikana massacre in which more than 44 people were killed during violent clashes at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in mid-August 2012.

A year later, he received backlash from former mineral resources minister Susan Shabangu for restructuring plans amid a weak price environment in an oversupplied market.

Shabangu blamed him for not consulting with the authorities and threatened to withdraw the company’s mining licence after Amplats announced it would likely retrench 14000 employees by idling unprofitable shafts and selling the Union Mine in response to the low prices.

“The main issue is that we delivered. This was a company that was in deep financial distress in 2012. I joined the company after the Marikana disaster. At the time more than 60 percent of industry was loss-making,” Griffith said. “We took out 60 percent of overheads, we did a restructure in 2013/14. Between 2014 and 2016, we shut down two loss-making mines. We had to retrench 10000 people - that had to be done.”

Amplats sold its Rustenburg assets to Sibanye-Stillwater. Yesterday, Griffith said Amplats was now in a position to withstand any price cycle.

Amplats, one of the world’s biggest PGM producers, said it would look internally for a successor, as Griffith was scheduled to step down at the company’s annual general meeting on April 16, 2020.

Norman Mbazima, Amplats chairperson, said Griffiths’ exceptional contribution to improving safety and the operational and financial turnaround of the business, had significant results.

“The focus on innovation and developing diverse markets for our range of metals, see Anglo American Platinum well positioned to continue growing from its current position of strength,” Mbazima said.

BUSINESS REPORT

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