Elliott willing to back BHP board candidate as next chairman: source

Thu May 11, 2017 6:43am EDT
 
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By James Regan

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Elliott Management is willing to back a board member of BHP Billiton (BHP.AX: Quote) (BLT.L: Quote) to be its chairman upon the retirement of Jac Nasser despite deep reservations about its top management, a source close to the activist shareholder said on Thursday.

Elliott, founded by billionaire Paul Singer, is pushing for a $46 billion overhaul at BHP that includes spin offs, dismantling a corporate structure built on dual listings in London and Sydney and returning more money to shareholders. The Anglo-Australian miner has rejected the demands.

The activist investor blames Nasser and BHP's top management for what it sees as bad investments by the world's biggest mining house, particularly in U.S. shale gas, the source said.

But Elliott believes "there are personalities on the board that are talented and capable", with the "potential for someone to be selected from the existing board", the source said.

It is unclear what impact Elliott's backing or opposition to a particular candidate will have on the chairman's appointment.

Elliott has been meeting with major BHP shareholders since going public with its restructuring proposals on April 10 to gauge support for change at the company.

Australian media have reported that Westpac Bank (WBC.AX: Quote) chairman Lindsay Maxsted, former investment banker Carolyn Hewson, Orica (ORI.AX: Quote) chairman Malcolm Broomhead and former Origin Energy (ORG.AX: Quote) managing director Grant King are among the potential frontrunners to succeed Nasser.

The source declined to name any preferred candidates from inside BHP, saying this could be "the kiss of death" for their chances.   Continued...

 
FILE PHOTO: BHP Chairman Jac Nasser sits before the company's Australian annual general meeting in Sydney, Australia November 29, 2012.   REUTERS/Tim Wimborne/File Photo