NEWSMAKER-The quiet Australian: Trafigura's new chief cut from a different cloth

Wed Mar 26, 2014 12:00am EDT
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By Josephine Mason

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - For decades, Trafigura's co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Claude Dauphin has been the epitome of the successful commodity trader, a demanding workaholic who traveled to harsh frontiers in search of raw materials to sell at a profit.

In naming his successor, the 63-year-old Frenchman is now shattering that mold. He has picked a mild-mannered Australian geologist with a banking background to succeed him as chief executive of one of the world's largest traders of oil, metals and minerals.

In an abrupt change at the helm, Trafigura announced on Monday that Jeremy Weir, 50, previously the head of mining and market risk, will handle day-to-day operations. Dauphin, who co-founded the company in 1993, will step down due to an unspecified illness but remain as executive chairman.

The handover was at once surprising and, on reflection, inevitable, according to half a dozen senior traders and top rivals who know the two men.

Some had expected Dauphin to anoint as his successor a younger trailblazer who, like him, had toiled at the coal face of modern-day commodity trading, building relationships with resource-rich leaders and moving physical minerals around the globe.

In the early years, Trafigura and rivals such as Glencore and Vitol often got their first footholds in a market by going where larger firms feared to tread.

Instead he chose Weir, who joined in 2001 from one of the world's oldest investment banks and worked his way quickly up to the hedge fund and management board.

Yet the appointment also marks a logical strategic and cultural shift as Swiss-based Trafigura enters its third decade, a far cry from the rough-and-tumble dealings that prevailed when Dauphin started the firm after breaking ties with the godfather of contemporary oil trading Marc Rich.   Continued...