Rio Tinto might need to recruit an underdog for a brand new boss

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Rio Tinto CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques poses for photos before announcing Rio Tinto's first half 2017 results in London

From Sonali Paul

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Four years after mining giant Rio Tinto (NYSE 🙂 swept out its seasoned managers to make way for a new generation of business leaders, its executive team has broken down.

The world's largest iron ore miner is looking for a new chief and iron ore boss after allowing old Aboriginal rock shelters to be blown up to expand a mine in Western Australia against the will of traditional owners.

Investors and analysts saw no clear internal candidates and said after the damage done to the company's reputation, it was likely that Rio would attract an outsider to replace Frenchman Jean-Sébastien Jacques.

"It is clear from the chairman's comments that we want to reset the culture, which would mean an outside candidate is more likely than an internal one," said Hayden Bairstow, an analyst at Macquarie.

Chairman Simon Thompson said Friday the company was determined to "restore our reputation as a leader in community and heritage".

Potential outside candidates pointed out by analysts and investors included Mark Cutifani, CEO of Anglo American (AX :), Alberto Calderon, former CEO of Orica (AX 🙂 Fortescue Metals Group head (AX 🙂 Nev Power and former Shell Australia chair Zoe Yujnovich, who previously ran Canada's iron ore business in Rio.

"Zoe has the relevant mining background, international management experience, government relations, an acute sensitivity to the engagement of indigenous and remote communities and strong Australian roots," said an analyst who refused to be named because he did not cover Rio.

If the company is looking to revamp its culture, it can be difficult to reach out to former executives in Rio, although some have been viewed as potential candidates: Newcrest Mining (AX :), Managing Director Sandeep Biswas, Aurizon CEO Andrew Harding, OZ Minerals ( AX 🙂 CEO Andrew Cole and Fortescue Chief Operating Officer Greg Lilleyman.

However, analysts said the company may want to look beyond mining expertise to set a new vision for the company.

"You don't have to be able to mine an iron ore mine plan to run Rio Tinto. See the success of Elizabeth Gaines (former travel industry manager) at Fortescue," said Bairstow.

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