De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver (pictured) tells JCK that he plans to stay involved in the company as cochairman after he hands over the CEO job early next year to energy company executive Al Cook.
Cleaver, who has served as De Beers CEO since 2016, will become De Beers cochair alongside Anglo American CEO Duncan Wanblad.
While Cook is a company outsider, he has a lot of experience in the mining sector. He currently serves as executive vice president of international exploration and production for Equinor, Norway’s state-owned energy company.
Cleaver says his stepping down was preplanned.
“When I took this job, I said to [former Anglo American CEO] Mark [Cutifani] I intend to do this for five years. I have now done it for six and a half.
“Last year, I told him I was serious and that we should start looking for a successor. I have always wanted to leave when I wanted to, not when the company wanted me to.”
In his new role as cochair, Cleaver will still represent De Beers at events such as the JCK show.
“I expect it will be a real involved chairmanship,” he says. “I plan to do it more than part time…I will stay in touch with the trade.”
Cleaver says he doesn’t plan to take another executive job, hoping to spend more time with his family.
He says that he was involved in the search for his successor, and he’s “very impressed with” Cook. He notes that while it’s hard to find an executive that covers all the areas De Beers is involved in, Cook checked most of the boxes.
“He has very strong strategy, very strong sustainability credentials,” Cleaver says. “Al was our unanimous first choice.”
And while Cook does not have any experience in the consumer marketing space, Cleaver expects Cook will develop that. Cleaver says that, contrary to some speculation, he expects the company will remain focused on brands and marketing.
“I hope my staying on as cochair reinforces that,” he adds.
Before his current role at Equinor, Cook led the company’s global strategy and business development, where he developed its net-zero strategy. Currently, Cook runs operations in 12 countries across Africa, North America, South America, and Europe.
Cook joined Equinor after spending two decades at oil company BP, where he served in a variety of high-level roles, including chief of staff to its CEO.
“I believe Al’s multidisciplinary strategic skill set and strong personal conviction and values are ideally suited to the nature of De Beers, a global business that spans much of the spectrum from exploration and mining to Bond Street and Madison Avenue,” said Wanblad in a statement.
By next year, Cleaver will have served in De Beers’ top job for seven years, two more than predecessors Philippe Mellier and Gareth Penny, who both served for around five. Cleaver also served as interim co-CEO from 2010 to 2011 with Stuart Brown.
“Bruce has led De Beers with distinction,” said Wanblad in a statement, “evolving the company’s strategic vision to ensure that consumers’ desire for diamond jewelry is at the very heart of decision making across the diamond pipeline, while leading a safety transformation to ensure employee safety and well-being are recognized as the first priority and a shared responsibility.
“I look forward to his contribution as cochairman, ensuring the greatest continuity for the business and our partners and stakeholders,” he added.
Anglo American owns 85% of De Beers.
Said Cook in the same statement: “Throughout my career, I have been passionate about bringing enduring economic, social, and environmental value to host countries and communities. I deeply recognize the importance of De Beers’ approach to responsible mining—most notably in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa.”
Recent De Beers CEOs
Bruce Cleaver, 2016–2023
Philippe Mellier, 2011–2016
Bruce Cleaver/Stuart Brown (interim), 2010–2011
Gareth Penny, 2006–2010
Gary Ralfe (managing director), 1998–2006
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