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Orica boss bows out early for new arrival

THE chief executive of explosives and chemical company Orica, Graeme Liebelt, is to bring forward his retirement date to March next year to accommodate the arrival of former Newcrest boss Ian Smith as its new CEO.

THE chief executive of explosives and chemical company Orica, Graeme Liebelt, is to bring forward his retirement date to March next year to accommodate the arrival of former Newcrest boss Ian Smith as its new CEO.

Mr Liebelt's contract was due to expire at the end of September but will now end at the end of March following a one-month changeover with Mr Smith.

Mr Smith was Newcrest's CEO for five years until June this year. 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 tenure at Newcrest Mr Smith orchestrated the $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 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. But Mr Smith is believed to have tired of the extensive travel required as Newcrest's CEO and what would have been required 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 a number of challenges at Orica.

Not the least of those is re-establishing its environmental credentials after criticism of its handling of a chemical spill on August 8 at its Kooragang Island plant.

Mr Smith's fixed annual remuneration is $2.5 million compared with Mr Liebelt's $2.31 million. Mr Smith can also earn 60-120 per cent of his fixed salary for achieving annual performance measures. Mr Liebelt's total remuneration in the September year was $7.16 million.


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