De Beers Reshuffles Management; Appoints First Black African Executive

In another management reshuffle, De Beers announced the appointment of its first black executive.

David Noko has been appointed managing director of De Beers Consolidated Mines, which handles the company’s South African mines. He replaces Jonathan Oppenheimer, son of chairman Nicky.

According to a company news release, Jonathan Oppenheimer, 36, will move “up to the chairman’s office,” where he will become chairman of several other De Beers divisions, including De Beers Canada. Press accounts saw this as a stepping stone to eventually replacing his father, which would make him the fourth generation of his family to head the company.

When asked if Jonathan would soon fill his shoes, the elder Oppenheimer was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying: “Any father likes his son to take over from him if possible. And now I am 60, I am approaching my sell-by date. But in today’s world you have to be promoted on merit.”

Oppenheimer struck a similar note when talking about Noko, saying his appointment has “nothing to do with black empowerment, because I am glad to say David Noko is being promoted on his own merits. But we are in favor of the company reflecting the society in which it is based.”

De Beers has been under mounting pressure to increase the amount of black participation in its ranks; a few months back, a South African minister called the company’s board of directors “lily white and male-dominated.” Although De Beers has had black board members, Noko is the first black division head in the company’s 100-plus years of operation.