Diamonds: De Beers’ Gareth Penny on His Exit; Bulgari’s Blue on the Auction Block

Penny and His Thoughts

Gareth Penny, the outgoing CEO of De Beers, told JCK in an exclusive interview his next job will likely not involve diamonds.

“I’d like to do something different, maybe something entrepreneurial,” he says. “I am 48 years old and looking forward to the next chapter. For the last 10 years I have lived on airplanes. I’d like to do something that’s a bit less ­peripatetic. I have two young kids, 10 and 12, and I’d like to spend more time with them.”

Penny announced he was stepping down in July after 22 years with the company. 

A former ­Rhodes scholar, Penny first made his mark in the late 1990s, when he oversaw the “strategic review” that led to De Beers’ adopting the Supplier of Choice policy. Penny eventually ascended to the top jobs at the Diamond Trading Company and at De Beers. Despite numerous controversies during his tenure—from the Blood Diamond movie to trade dissatisfaction with De Beers’ Supplier of Choice program—he is exiting on a high note. De Beers’ rough diamond sales for the first half of 2010 were $2.6 billion, a whopping 84 percent increase over the previous year. Its EBITDA was $762 million, more than double 2009’s number.

“The company is in good shape,” he notes. “There are significant challenges; I don’t think that is ever going to change. That’s the nature of our business.… But the results speak for themselves.”

De Beers is hunting for a new CEO. Chief financial officer Stuart Brown and chief commercial officer Bruce Cleaver were appointed acting joint CEOs following Penny’s departure.

Big Blue

More than 20 cts. of ice will go on the block on Oct. 20 at Christie’s.

The Bulgari Blue Diamond—a two-stone diamond ring designed by the legendary house of ­Bulgari in the 1970s­­—will be auctioned as part of Christie’s “Jewels: The New York Sale” on Oct. 20. 

The ring features a triangular-shaped, colorless diamond of 9.87 cts. paired with a triangular-shaped Fancy Vivid blue diamond of 10.95 cts.—the largest Fancy Vivid blue diamond of this cut ever offered at auction. Only one in about 10 million will possess a color pure enough to qualify as “Fancy Vivid,” according to the auction house. Expected price: upwards of $12 million.

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