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Phillippe Mellier, CEO of De Beers Group, is stepping down after five years at the helm
Phillippe Mellier, CEO of De Beers Group, is stepping down after five years at the helm

Change at the top for De Beers

The head of the De Beers Group is stepping down after five years in charge and just weeks after signing a record sales agreement.

Philippe Mellier will be replaced as CEO of the global diamond company by Bruce Cleaver who last year was appointed group director of strategy and business development at De Beers’ parent company Anglo American.

The change comes six months after Rapaport Group chairman Martin Rapaport called on Mellier to resign in an editorial piece titled Rough Bubble Bust. As previously reported by Jeweller, Rapaport argued rough diamond prices had been manipulated to artificially high and unsustainable levels and blamed De Beers for the “collapse” of the rough diamond distribution system.

Bruce Cleaver, incoming De Beers CEO
Bruce Cleaver, incoming De Beers CEO

In the article, Rapaport accused Mellier of “destroying long-term client trust relationships … while bankrupting the diamond trade for the sake of short-term balance sheet profits”.

He recommended the appointment of “a leader who is a diamantaire, someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about the diamond business and the future of the diamond trade”.

Cleaver previously served as De Beers’ executive director responsible for strategy and commercial relationships until 2015 and as co-acting CEO for one year prior to Mellier joining the group in 2011.

The appointment will be effective 1 July, 2016.

In a company statement, the outgoing CEO said he was “privileged” to have served at such an “iconic” company.

“As I committed at the outset in 2011, I envisaged a five year plan with the team and the board to reset De Beers on its current path,” Mellier commented.

Phillippe Mellier, outgoing De Beers CEO
Phillippe Mellier, outgoing De Beers CEO

“Having steered through some of the diamond industry’s toughest times and with the market showing signs of recovery, now is the right time for me to pass the baton to the next generation.”

Milestone contract

One of Mellier’s final acts was overseeing the signing of a 10-year sales agreement between De Beers and the government of Namibia. The deal covers the sorting, valuing and sales of the rough diamonds mined by the two parties under several joint ventures.

It is said to be the longest contract signed by the two partners and will reportedly result in an increase in rough diamond supplies, with US$430 million (AU$587 m) of rough being offered annually to sightholders of Namibia Diamond Trading Company – one of the joint ventures.

The government will also be allowed to independently sell 15 per cent of the diamonds produced by the parties’ joint venture, Namdeb Holdings, per year.

Mellier said the agreement, finalised in May, ensured diamonds would continue to play a “key role” in the nation’s socio-economic development.

De Beers has conducted mining operations in the country since 1994. Namdeb Holdings is believed to be one of Namibia’s largest taxpayers and is currently responsible for one-fifth of the country’s foreign earnings.

More reading
De Beers blamed for diamond industry problems
De Beers answers Rapaport criticism, explains overhaul
De Beers’ production and sales decline
Market forces De Beers to sell, suspend diamond mines

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