BHP drops 4% as Kloppers departs

BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP)(LON: BHP)(NYSE: BHP) slumped more than 4% in New York a day after announcing a drop in profits and the departure of CEO Marius Kloppers.

South African-born Kloppers, trained as a chemical engineer, is a 20-year veteran of the company with nearly six years at the helm.

He had a reputation of being something of a disciplinarian, laying down strict rules for office conduct and strengthening internal controls at the far-flung company.

He was also a primary architect of the sea change that occurred in the iron ore trade at the end of 2007 when the benchmark annual contract system was transformed.

In the decades before iron ore never strayed far from $20 a tonne – today the commodity accounts for the bulk of the profits at the top global miners.

But his tenure would probably be best remembered for two audacious, but ultimately unsuccessful takeover attempts – a $150 billion hostile offer Australian rival Rio Tinto in 2007 and three years later a $39 billion bid for Canada's Potashcorp, which was blocked by the country's federal government.

Kloppers also lead the company's expansion into shale oil and gas when BHP bought Petrohawk of Texas in 2011 for $12 billion, only to write down $2.8 billion of the investment less than a year later.

The Petrohawk impairment cost Kloppers his bonus that year. It's also telling that his replacement, Andrew Mackenzie, who Kloppers lured away from Rio Tinto in 2007, is an oil man as well as a miner.

The Melbourne-based resource giant also reported Tuesday its half-year profits had plunged 58% to $4.2 billion as revenues declined 14% to $32 billion.

BHP, the world's biggest miner, is traded on 13 other exchanges in 6 countries and has a market capitalization of just over $200 billion.