Endeavour Mining says it fired CEO for ‘serious misconduct’

Endeavour Mining’s CEO Sebastien de Montessus. Credit: Endeavour Mining

Endeavour Mining Plc has fired president and chief executive officer Sébastien de Montessus, citing serious misconduct and irregularities tied to the sale of a company asset.

The London-based metals producer said it arrived at the decision following a board investigation into an “irregular payment instruction” of $5.9 million issued by de Montessus in relation to one of Endeavour’s asset sales.

The company, backed by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, also said in a Thursday statement that it had been considering how to respond to an external investigation into the CEO’s personal conduct with colleagues, following whistle-blowing allegations from October.

De Montessus denied allegations of misconduct but acknowledged “a lapse in judgement,” in a statement issued later Thursday afternoon. The former executive said that in 2021 he instructed an unnamed creditor of Endeavour to offset an amount owed to the company for essential security equipment, to protect its partners and employees in an unspecified conflict zone.

The dramatic termination ends de Montessus’ seven-year stint as Endeavour’s top executive. The former executive transformed the company through a flurry of deal-making and mine-building that replaced small and high-cost operations with new flagship projects. The company operates gold mines in West Africa with assets across Senegal, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.

“The decision had no additional cost to the company and did not benefit me personally in any way,” de Montessus said in his statement. “I omitted to inform the board that I had arranged for this offset, which I have freely accepted was a lapse in judgement.”

Neither the company or de Montessus disclosed the asset in question or its location. In the past two years, Endeavor has sold mines in Burkina Faso and its stake in an Ivory Coast gold project.

The former executive also said he was given 48 hours’ notice of the concerns and “no proper opportunity” to respond to them before he was fired.

“As to the other investigation: no misconduct of any kind was discovered because none occurred,” de Montessus said. “I am proud of what we have built together at Endeavour,” he said, adding he would “take my time to consider my position with my advisers.”

Endeavour’s Canadian shares plunged as much as 11% in Toronto, the biggest intraday decline since March 23, 2020. The stock closed down 10% to C$25.98.

Endeavour has been among the most acquisitive mining companies in recent years, having bought Teranga Gold Corp. and rival Semafo Inc. in 2020.

It has also backed away from deals, abandoning an attempt to buy Centamin Plc, which owns the Sukari mine in Egypt, after its advances were rebuffed. In 2017, the company ended talks on a potential combination with Acacia Mining Plc, a Tanzanian miner that has since been reabsorbed by Barrick Gold Corp.

Replacing de Montessus effective immediately is deputy chairman Ian Cockerill, who previously served as CEO of Gold Fields Ltd. and Anglo Coal, a subsidiary of Anglo American Plc, Endeavour said in the statement.

(By Jacob Lorinc and Thomas Biesheuvel)


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