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Transportation exec tapped as De Beers CEO

2011-05-16

London--After a “wide-ranging search,” De Beers Chairman Nicky Oppenheimer announced Monday that French executive Philippe Mellier, president of Alstom Transport, is the new chief executive officer of the De Beers Group.

The selection of Mellier, who has no experience in the diamond or mining industries, is a signal that De Beers, a 123-year-old company that once controlled the majority of the world’s supply of rough diamonds, recognizes that the world is changing.

Alstom Transport develops and markets systems and equipment for the railroad industry, including both locomotives and high-speed trains. In addition to heading Alstom Transport, Mellier is executive vice president of Alstom s.a.

 “With several large upstream projects underway and the rapid emergence of major downstream markets, De Beers stands on the cusp of an exciting new period of growth,” Oppenheimer said. “To seize this moment, we were determined to find a leader with a world-class track record of delivering large projects, understanding the needs of key stakeholders including government partners and clients, and an instinct for shifting consumer patterns. I am excited by the dynamism and fresh perspective that Philippe will bring to De Beers.”

The search for a new CEO began last July, when Gareth Penny announced he would be stepping down in the fall after five years at the helm of De Beers and 22 years at the company.

During the search, speculation surfaced that De Beers would go with someone from outside the diamond industry.

At the helm of Alstom, Mellier oversaw a business with about $9.7 billion in annual sales and 27,000 employees.

Mellier, who graduated from ENSTA with a degree in mechanical engineering and received his MBA from INSEAD, began his career in 1980 with the Ford Motor Company. He worked there for 19 years holding various senior management positions, including an appointment as vice president of marketing, sales and after-sales activities for Ford of Europe in 1997.

In 1999, Mellier joined Renault as senior vice president in charge of European sales and served on the company’s management board. In 2001, he moved to Volvo AB where he served as chairman and CEO of Renault Trucks and was a member of the Volvo Group Executive Committee.

Mellier officially will join De Beers in July and will chair the company’s executive committee and be appointed to the De Beers s.a. board.

 “De Beers is a unique company with a rich legacy that stretches through history and across an industry,” Mellier said. “With such strong assets and passionate people, I am honored to be asked to lead De Beers at this exciting time. I take on this role with humility, enthusiasm and two fundamental beliefs--the safety of our people will always be paramount, and the diamond dream will always be the bedrock of our business model.”