Exit Interview With De Beers CEO Gareth Penny

As most of us know, Gareth Penny stepped down as CEO of De Beers
last week, although he will remain with the company through September and in some capacity through the end of the year. Gareth has always been one of the insightful observers of our industry, and he very kindly took some time to speak with me today. Excerpts from
the interview follow:  

So I guess the first question is: Where are you are going?

For the time being, there is a
handover process and I want to make sure that is done right. I have had 22
years at De Beers, five years as CEO, and then five years as head of the DTC.
For the last ten years I have lived on airplanes. I’d like to do something
that’s a bit less peripatetic. I have two young kids, aged ten and twelve, and
I’d like to spend more time with them.

I have had an extraordinary
fulfilling time at De Beers. I think the [latest
financial] results
speak for themselves. The company is in good shape. There
are significant challenges; I don’t think that is ever going to change. That’s the
nature of our business.

It is time to find someone who will
shepherd De Beers into the future.  I am excited about the next stage of my career. I am 48 years
old and am full of vim and vigor and looking forward to the next chapter.

You have indicated that you want to do something outside the diamond

That’s right – at least for a
while.  I’d like to so something
different. I’ve been in the diamond business for 22 years. It feels like a long
time. I’d like to do something different, perhaps something entrepreneurial.

Any acheivement you are proudest of?

I think it is the collective
achievement of the industry. I really believe the diamond industry has made
significant progress in addressing ethical issues, by putting into place the
Kimberley Process. I don’t know of any other industry that has something as
significant as the KP, whatever faults it has. It is easy to point the faults
out but to try and coordinate 74 governments to get collective action is never
easy. I look at other industries, such as the petroleum industry, and I think
the diamond industry showed its mettle.   

Are there any disappointments?

Well I read what
you wrote
and clearly there are going to be pros and cons with any policy.
I would like to see the in-store experience become more differentiated. I think
we still have a long way to go to give the consumer the experience they are
looking for.

What will you miss most of all?

The people. This is a people
industry. It is full of very special people, from geologists to people in
producer countries to sightholders. It’s just a vast array and they are
colorful, they are interesting, they are passionate. I don’t have that much
exposure to other industries but I believe there are more passionate people in
this industry than in others.

Do you have any message for the industry?

I think we should all be
optimistic.  Consumers are looking
for “fewer better things.” Diamonds are becoming increasingly rare. They are a
treasure of nature and let us treat them accordingly. 

JCK News Director