De Beers Group Names Outsider as CEO

The De Beers Group has appointed French transportation executive Philippe Mellier, 55, as the company’s new CEO—making him the first person from outside De Beers to head the company in its history.

Philippe Mellier (Photo courtesy of De Beers)

Mellier is currently the president of Alstom Transport, a division of Alstom S.A., where he oversaw 27,000 employees and a business with about $8 billion in sales during the last fiscal year. Most of his career has been in the car industry, inducing stints at Volvo, Renault, and Ford. News of De Beers’ choice of an outsider of CEO was first broken by Cutting Remarks on May 5.

Mellier takes over from Stuart Brown and Bruce Cleaver, who were named interim co-CEOs in the wake of the resignation of Gareth Penny in July 2010. He will officially become CEO in July 2011.

A De Beers statement noted that Mellier had “spent his career leading large complex organizations, delivering major projects, working with partners and customers, and understanding the changing needs of consumers.”

Analysts called the appointment of an outsider an indication of a “dire lack of top executives” in the diamond and mining industries. But they noted that it “echoed” the appointment of outsider Cynthia Carroll as head of Anglo-American, one of De Beers’ owners.

“Today is an exciting day for the staff and shareholders of De Beers,” said chairman Nicky Oppenheimer in a statement. “In Philippe, we have found a proven leader with a reputation for delivering results while shaping businesses for the long-term.”

Mellier noted, also in a statement: “I take on this role with humility, enthusiasm and two fundamental beliefs – the safety of our people will always be paramount, and the diamond dream will always be the bedrock of our business model.”

The news comes on the same day that De Beers’ retail chain announced a new CEO for its U.S. division.

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