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Cynthia Carroll yields to pressure and leaves Anglo

Image courtesy of Harvard Business School.

Where there is smoke… After several reports of Anglo American’s (LON:AAL) shareholders disappointment at both the company’s overall performance and her CEO, Cynthia Carroll, she has finally left the company.

In a press release divulged Friday, the group said the criticized executive “decided to step down as Chief Executive, with the Board’s agreement.” It added she would remain in her post until a successor has been appointed and an appropriate transition has taken place.

Carroll, 55, was one of only the four women CEOs among FTSE-100 companies and the first female to take the top position at Anglo when she joined the company in 2007. She was also the first non-South African and the first non-insider to run the company founded in Johannesburg in 1917 by Sir Ernest Oppenheimer.

Anglo American’s Chairman, Sir John Parker, said Carroll leadership had a transformational impact on the company as she “developed a clear strategy, based on a highly attractive range of core commodities, and created a strong and unified culture and a streamlined organization with a focus on operational performance.”

Not only she had to deal with the effects of declining commodity prices and the recent crippling strikes affecting the company’s operations in South Africa. Another major issue that affected her reputation was Anglo’s battle with Chilean copper giant Codelco.

Under Carroll’s direction Anglo became a market underperformer. Other miners were hit by the financial crisis, but most have recovered rather well. Anglo, on the other hand, has been slower and the company’s shares have depreciated since early last year. From 2008 until now, Anglo’s shares have lost more than 40%.

And then there is the Chile’s Codelco matter. A year ago the state-owned company appeared to blindside Anglo by announcing that it will exercise an option dating back 33 years to acquire half of Anglo’s Los Bronces mines and smelters in the country.

After protracted legal action and corporate brinkmanship a compromise deal was reached in August, which saw Anglo reduce its stake to 50% from 75% before.

Some observers believe Codelco got the assets on the cheap, while others said Carroll negotiated the best possible deal with the government of Chile, which took a hard line from the start.