What’s in a name (change)?

EditorsOct 04, 2012

What’s in a name (change)?

Earlier this week, news broke of a renaming and corporate identity consolidation underway at De Beers, a company in the midst of a major transition as the Oppenheimer family exits the diamond business and Anglo American ups its stake. The...

Earlier this week, news broke of a renaming and corporate identity consolidation underway at De Beers, a company in the midst of a major transition as the Oppenheimer family exits the diamond business and Anglo American ups its stake.

The changes, on their face, are simple. The company is slightly altering its moniker, from the “De Beers Family of Companies” to the “De Beers Group of Companies.” All operations under this newly christened “Group” umbrella will adopt the De Beers name, including the Diamond Trading Co., the DTC sightholders and Diamdel, the company’s rough auction arm.

De Beers said that these changes are only the tip of the iceberg, a “piece of work,” in a long-term effort to transform its sales and production strategy, and that it will divulge more about additional changes in the coming months and years.

So, the question on the industry’s mind now is: What will these other changes entail?

Several hours after news of the renaming surfaced on Tuesday, I happened to be interviewing industry analyst Ben Janowski for a separate story. The conversation inevitably drifted to that day’s news.

Janowski reminded me of a previous talk we had back in November, where he said Anglo American could eventually transition to simply being a mining company that sells its goods via auctions, sans the sightholder system.

What happened on Tuesday, he said, is just a harbinger of future simplification, which could include a very gradual phasing out of sights.

It’s a prediction that Janowski, and others, have made before. What made sense as a sales model for the De Beers that controlled 85 to 90 percent of the world’s supply of rough diamonds doesn’t necessarily jibe for an Anglo American that now has just 35 percent.

But what about Forevermark, De Beers’ branded diamond that only recently launched in the U.S. market? Some have predicted that Forevermark eventually will be phased out too, just like the sightholder system. Yet having a consumer-facing diamond brand seems to be in line with De Beers’ realignment, which seeks to put the consumer at the front of the diamond pipeline.

De Beers, for their part, has denied repeatedly that they are going to eliminate either the sightholder system or Forevermark. De Beers Executive Director and Forevermark CEO Stephen Lussier told me as much back in November. And in her letter to sightholders reprinted in the

IDEX Online story, DTC CEO Varda Shine stressed that these changes are in name only, not in structure, and calls the sightholders an “integral” part of De Beers’ focus going forward.

For my part, I think it is difficult to tell exactly what changes Anglo American, which now controls 85 percent of De Beers, will make to the business in the coming months and years, especially given how rapidly the world around us changes these days.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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