Major shake-up at Newcrest: CEO and chairman out

After one of the worst years for Newcrest Mining Ltd. (ASX:NCM) in which reported a $5.3bn loss and came under scrutiny for possible breaches of corporate law, Australia's largest gold producer announced Wednesday major changes at the top.

After seven years as chairman, Don Mercer will retire in December leaving his position to board member Peter Hay, who is also on the board of Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ).

The gold company also said it has appointed former Rio Tinto aluminum executive Sandeep Biswas as its chief operating officer, with the plan of replacing current chief executive Greg Robinson in the second half of 2014.

Despite Newcrest saying the move is part of “an orderly succession process,” it is not a secret the gold miner has been under shareholder pressure to make changes following the biggest annual loss in its history and Australia's corporate watchdog’s probe on its business practices.

Newcrest’s stock has slumped by two-thirds since mid-2011, when then CFO Robinson was appointed as chief executive. Gold prices reached an all-time high that September as the U.S. bond-buying program and sovereign debt crises in the euro zone sparked demand for perceived lower-risk assets, like bullion and bonds.

Since then the world’s fifth largest gold producer by market value has fallen roughly 30%.

The market reacted well to the announced changes, with the company’s share price closing today 10 cents higher, or 0.9%, to $10.93.

Image from Everett Collection/Shutterstock.com