Kloppers makes Fortune’s top 25

Janine Erasmus

South African Marius Kloppers, CEO of BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, has been ranked as the 18th most powerful businessperson on Fortune magazine’s list of the top 25 movers and shakers of today.

Kloppers, who took over as CEO in October 2007, finds himself in the company of Steve Jobs of Apple, who tops the list, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch (2), investment billionaire Warren Buffett (5), Microsoft’s Bill Gates (7), Lakshmi Mittal of Mittal Steel (14), and Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi (22), who also tops the list of most powerful women in business.

The 45-year-old Kloppers came in behind James McNerney of Boeing and ahead of Steve Schwarzman of the private equity firm Blackstone Group.

Described by Fortune as an “aggressive executive with superior intellectual bandwidth”, Kloppers had barely taken over the reins at BHP Billiton when he launched a takeover bid for rival Rio Tinto, one of the world’s top three mining companies. Should the bid succeed, says Fortune, “the combined entity would be a resources superpower with a larger market cap than Microsoft and higher revenues (some $70 billion combined in 2007) than Dell or Boeing”. The deal will also go down in history as the second-biggest corporate takeover ever, after Vodafone’s $203 billion purchase of Mannesman in 2000.

Rio Tinto is resisting the takeover and has declined BHP Billiton’s initial offer, but Britain’s Takeover Panel set an offer deadline of 6 February. In a statement released on that day Rio Tinto said that after careful consideration its boards have unanimously rejected BHP Billiton’s pre-conditional offers, because they significantly undervalue the company.

On the fast track

Cape Town-born Kloppers, now resident in Melbourne, Australia, attended Helpmekaar High School in Johannesburg. He graduated from the University of Pretoria with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering. Kloppers also holds an MBA from Insead graduate business school in Fontainebleau, France, and a PhD in Materials Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

In the early days of his career he worked with South African petrochemical company Sasol and conducted materials research with Mintek, South Africa’s national mineral research organisation. After obtaining his MBA he took a position as management consultant with the privately owned McKinsey & Co in The Netherlands. He has worked with BHP Billiton since 1993 and was appointed as CEO when American CEO Charles Goodyear decided to retire at the end of 2007.

Within BHP Billiton Kloppers previously held the positions of group executive and chief executive non-ferrous materials (2007), group president non-ferrous materials (2006), chief commercial officer (2003), chief marketing officer, group executive of Billiton Plc and chief executive of Samancor Manganese (owned jointly by BHP Billiton and Anglo American). He held various positions at Billiton Aluminium, among them chief operating officer and general manager of Hillside Aluminium, South Africa’s major producer of primary aluminium.

Kloppers played a significant role in BHP’s 2001 merger with Billiton, once part of oil company Royal Dutch Shell.

BHP Billiton Group was founded in 2001 and produces primary aluminum, copper, lead, zinc, manganese, petroleum, nickel, uranium, steel, diamonds, silver, and titanium minerals. The company operates in 25 countries around the world and employs 36 000 people.

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