March 5, 2011
By Barry FitzGerald, smh, Business Day
The Anglo-Australian miner has announced that two non-executive directors, Sir Rod Eddington and Yves Fortier, will be retiring from the board at the conclusion of the group's annual meeting on May 5.
Rio has only three Australians on its board, despite Australia providing most of its earnings and operations, by a big margin.
Rio said that in replacing Sir Rod and Mr Fortier it would recognise the ''desirability of appointing another Australian director''.
Rio's senior independent director, Andrew Gould, has also flagged his departure at the conclusion of Rio's 2012 annual meeting.
Sir Rod's exit has been expected since he suffered the humiliation of a 36 per cent 'no' vote against his re-election to the board in 2009.
He does not face shareholders again at this year's annual general meeting but would have run the gauntlet at next year's meeting, were he still on the board.
Sir Rod and other non-executive directors were criticised for not checking the ambitions of the former Rio chairman Paul Skinner, who sought solace for Rio in the arms of the Chinese state-owned Chinalco, rather than turning to shareholders for a much-needed recapitalisation after the global financial crisis, as the miner eventually did with its new chairman, Jan du Plessis.
And before that, there was criticism that under Mr Skinner, Rio made a mistake by refusing to engage BHP Billiton during BHP's pre-global financial crisis takeover bid for the group.
Sir Rod's difficulties at Rio's 2009 annual meeting also came with the overlay of his boardroom position with the failed Allco Finance Group. He was was an Allco director from 2006 until 2009. Allco collapsed in November 2008 with debts of $1.1 billion
The official reason for Sir Rod's departure - he is 60 - is so he can wind back his extensive international travel commitments.
A graduate engineer from the University of Western Australia and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar, Sir Rod has travelled more than most.
As for Mr Fortier, Alcan's chairman from 2002-07, his retirement was first announced in February last year. That placated investors, particularly in London, who were agitating for a board and management overhaul following the ill-timed Alcan acquisition.(Business Day)