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Former Newcrest chief to take reins of Orica early

ORICA chief executive Graeme Liebelt is to bring forward his retirement date to accommodate the arrival of former Newcrest boss Ian Smith as the explosives and chemical company's new chief executive.

ORICA chief executive Graeme Liebelt is to bring forward his retirement date to accommodate the arrival of former Newcrest boss Ian Smith as the explosives and chemical company's new chief executive.

Mr Liebelt's contract was due to expire at the end of September next year but it will now finish at the end of March after a one-month changeover with Mr Smith, who becomes the new chief executive on February 27.

The highly rated Mr Smith was Newcrest chief executive for five years until June. With the help of bumper gold prices, he presided over a six-fold increase in the gold company's market capitalisation to $30 billion.

During his time at Newcrest, Mr Smith orchestrated the successful $4.5 billion takeover of Lihir Gold and overhauled Newcrest's operating procedures and finances, most notably ridding the company of its problematic hedge book.

His appointment to the Melbourne-based Orica follows speculation that Rio Tinto was keen to have him join its board as part of its effort to increase Australian representation on its London-dominated board.

But Mr Smith is believed to have tired of the extensive travel required to be Newcrest's chief executive and what would have been needed to attend Rio's board meetings.

A critic of the federal government's mining tax and former chairman of the mining industry lobby group, Minerals Council of Australia, Mr Smith faces several challenges at Orica.


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