Rio Tinto announce new CEO

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Sam Walsh has announced he will retire from Rio Tinto in July, and will be succeeded copper and coal head Jean-Sebastien Jacques.

Following this announcement late yesterday Jacques immediately joined the miner’s board and stepped into the role of deputy chief executive in order to create a smooth transition into the top position.

Jacques has led the copper and coal business for more than three years.

“He has delivered a step-change in both safety and cash performance while significantly reducing costs,” Rio Tinto said in a company statement.

Speaking on his transition to CEO, Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessies said, “Jean-Sébastien is a very experienced executive with a demonstrated track record and brings a unique blend of strategic and operational expertise.”

“He has run complex operations and projects across five commodities and five continents. J-S is a highly-regarded leader who shares Rio Tinto’s strong values and has embraced its culture.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a comprehensive and deliberate executive succession process. The board has decided that J-S is the right person to lead Rio Tinto in an increasingly complex world filled with both challenges and opportunities for our industry.”

Jacques welcomed his appointment, and thanked Walsh for his steering of the company over the last few years.

“The board appointed Sam as chief executive at a challenging time for our company and I am very grateful for his tremendous leadership during the past three years,” Jacques said.

“Against the backdrop of a volatile economic environment, Sam and his team have transformed the business, removing more than $6 billion of costs, strengthening the balance sheet and returning more than $13 billion to shareholders. Sam leaves Rio Tinto as a much stronger company, with a bright future.”

He went on outline his focus for leadership of the business, stating, “The safety of all of our people across the world will remain a key focus and, together with Sam, I will take every opportunity over the next few months, to meet and listen to our shareholders, customers, employees and stakeholders, all of whom play an integral role in making this great company so successful.”

Chris Salisbury has been appointed as acting chief executive of the now vacant copper and coal product group.