Dominion Diamond chairman steps down, replaced by De Beers veteran

Dominion Diamond chairman steps down, replaced by De Beers veteran

Ekati mine aerial view, August 2010. (Image by Jason Pineau, WikiMedia Commons)

Robert Gannicott, the man who co-founded Dominion Diamond (TSX, NYSE:DDC), Canada's largest publicly traded diamond miner, is leaving the company and will be replaced by former De Beers Canada chief executive Jim Gowans.

The firm, which has been under pressure from activist shareholders, said Gowans will take over as non-executive chairman no later than April 30.

Josef Vejvoda has also been appointed to the board, Dominion said. Vejvoda is a portfolio manager at Toronto-based K2 & Associates, which led the activist group.

Gannicott, who has sat on Dominion's board for 12 years, had recently returned to work after an eight-month medical leave of absence.

"Both the company and I have faced certain changes recently," Gannicott said in a statement released Wednesday. "For the company, these represent opportunities but in my case they represent medical challenges."

Dominion paid Gannicott US$7.2 million (after taxes) when he recently gave up his CEO position, ceding it to Brendan Bell, a former N.W.T. minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Dominion Diamond said the dissident group has accepted a “standstill” agreement as a result of the appointments, which fill vacancies that opened just before Christmas, when two independent directors resigned.

The company owns the Ekati diamond mine and a 40% stake in Diavik — Canada’s largest diamond mine — both in the Northwest Territories.