Oppenheimer, Lamont Retire

Anthony Oppenheimer, former president of the now-defunct Central Selling Organisation and second cousin to De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer, recently retired from the company. Also leaving is longtime spokesman Andrew Lamont, familiar to U.S. retailers for his good-natured fielding of trade press questions.

Oppenheimer held a variety of top-level positions at De Beers. He is the son of the late Sir Philip Oppenheimer, known as one of De Beers’ most skilled negotiators, and grandson of Otto Oppenheimer, brother of cartel architect Ernest.

Besides his second cousin, Oppenheimer still has family at De Beers—Stephen Lussier, the company’s marketing director and one of the architects of its new direction, is married to Oppenheimer’s daughter Sophie.

Lamont leaves the company after some 24 years of service. He is the third veteran De Beers spokesman to depart in the last two years. Roger van Eeghan, who handled the U.S. trade press for many years, left last year, and Robin Walker retired in 2000.

The corporate communications department is a victim of De Beers’ recent privatization. With the company no longer required to communicate with the analyst community, the department has been downsized.

A native South African, Lamont began his career as most De Beers executives do—sorting diamonds. After tours in Botswana and South Africa, he came to London where he served most of his tenure in the corporate communications department.

While most of his time was spent answering press questions, in recent years his portfolio broadened to dealing with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly on the conflict diamonds issue.

Lamont says it was particularly exciting dealing with the recent transformations at De Beers.

“In many ways it’s been a good punctuation mark on my career,” he says. “De Beers is in no-going-back mode. The company found itself in a situation where change was really the only option.”

Lamont isn’t sure what his future will hold but thinks it probably won’t include diamonds. “I’m still young enough to reinvent myself, and I intend to do that,” he says, but he adds that he doesn’t intend to make serious decisions for months.

He admits that he’ll miss a lot about the diamond industry. “It is the most fascinating industry in the world,” he says. “What makes it so unique are the people. You really don’t see the characters you meet in this industry in any other business.”

When asked for a final message to the U.S. retailers with whom he’s “spoken” for years, he says only: “Prepare for an upturn. Because it will come.”