Does De Beers Want to Be the Industry’s “Leader” Again?

De Beers’ new CEO, Philippe Mellier, is shaping up as someone to watch.

The former French car executive was surprisingly frank (pardon the pun) when he addressed sightholders at the company’s recent Business Excellence Seminar.

According to several attendees, Mellier said that this multibillion industry needs leadership, noting that in other industries, the top two or three companies take a leading role.

“He said the theme of the conference is leadership, and this industry doesn’t have it,” one attendee said.

He added the diamond business currently doesn’t even a spokesman (a point I’ve made), and that prices are too volatile and driven by speculation.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Mellier even took what many saw as a swipe at the Rapaport price list, saying “one man” shouldn’t control diamond prices. (I should note that Rapaport has always maintained, most recently to Marketwatch.com, his list doesn’t control the prices, but reflects them.)

All of this is a little ironic, since De Beers has largely stepped away from its past leadership role. But it will be interesting to see if Mellier continues to be so outspoken, and where this all leads …

JCK News Director