First Quantum Minerals Ltd. said it conducted an exhaustive and independent search before naming Tristan Pascall, the son of chairman and co-founder Philip Pascall, as its next chief executive officer.
Vancouver-based First Quantum, the sixth-biggest copper miner in the world, said on Monday that after its annual meeting in May, 73-year-old Philip will be replaced by 46-year-old Tristan. A former investment banker, Tristan joined First Quantum in 2007, and has built up more than a decade of experience running the company’s biggest mines in Zambia and Panama. Philip will retain a heavy influence at First Quantum, staying on as chairman, a position he’s held since co-founding the firm in 1996.
Robert Harding, lead independent director at First Quantum, said in a conference call Monday that the board was well aware that putting a son in a position formerly occupied by the father may create “a perception of impartiality.” But he stressed that substantial checks were in place to ensure the CEO search was airtight from a governance standpoint.
That included considering several other internal candidates for the role, as well as external candidates from some 280 companies, and not allowing any interference whatsoever from Philip.
“The independent directors are focused on ensuring the necessary processes are in place to reinforce strong governance,” Mr. Harding said in the call. “Philip is committed to taking the steps necessary to maintain good governance, including clearly defining his role and responsibilities as chairman of the board.”
The perils of how family dynamics can go wrong in Corporate Canada are in full focus right now, with a destructive power struggle raging at Rogers Communications Inc. between the son of the company’s founder and other family members.
Investors are also watching for any change in direction from First Quantum with the appointment of the younger Mr. Pascall.
Philip is known as entrepreneurial, and an extremely hands-on, detail-orientated mine builder. Conversely, Tristan spent eight years earlier in his career in investment banking and capital markets, before transitioning to a corporate role at First Quantum in 2007. Since then, he’s taken on considerable responsibility, first at its Zambian operations and more recently overseeing the ramp-up at the giant Cobre Panama mine. In January, he became chief operating officer.
In an interview, Tristan offered some clues as to how his leadership style may differ from his father’s, saying he’ll put more emphasis on communicating the company’s overall strategy, and First Quantum will engage closer with both shareholders and the media.
“Certainly that will be key in my role going forward and perhaps a little bit different from the past in terms of communicating and being actively present,” he said.
Although Tristan’s tenure as COO has been relatively brief, Shane Nagle, analyst with National Bank, has been impressed. He said despite a global pandemic, Cobre Panama has had little deterioration in operational efficiency under the younger Mr. Pascall’s stewardship, and the company seems to be making progress on discussions with Panama over possible royalty hikes in the future.
“Coming out of COVID, they’ve done pretty well,” Mr. Nagle said.
Unlike the drama at Rogers, which is casting doubt over whether the huge telecommunications company will be allowed to forge ahead on a game-changing acquisition, family dynamics in the mining industry have mostly been cordial. Several large mining companies in Canada have been run by multiple generations of the same family, and for the most part scandal has been absent – at least in public.
The Keevil family has been centre stage at base metals giant Teck Resources for decades. Norman Bell Keevil ran the company through much of the 1960s and 1970s. His son, Norman B. Keevil, took over in 1981, and was CEO for another two decades. And his son, Norman B. Keevil III, remains a director to this day.
Meanwhile, Lundin Group of Cos., which was started by Adolf Lundin in the 1970s, spans some 12 resource companies that feature Mr. Lundin’s children and grandchildren in various officer or director roles.
Perhaps the closest thing the Canadian resource sector has seen to familial scandal is the Goodman family. In 2014, Jonathan Goodman abruptly departed his role as CEO of Dundee Capital Markets, at a time when his father, Ned Goodman, was still very much in the picture.
A few years later, however, Jonathan came back into the family fold in a central role, taking over as executive chairman of Dundee Corp. after his brother, David Goodman, went on leave because of a medical condition.
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