SANTIAGO -(Dow Jones)- The timing for the resignation of Chilean state copper giant Codelco's Chief Executive Diego Hernandez was unexpected but it won't weaken the company's image, the chairman of the company's board said Friday.
Codelco is in the middle of a legal battle with Anglo American PLC (AAUKY, AAL.LN) over an option the state miner has for a stake in Anglo's Sur copper mining complex.
"This was Diego Hernandez's personal decision. We tried to find the best moment, but it wasn't possible," Chairman Gerardo Jofre told reporters.
He said the board was previously aware of Hernandez's wish to leave the world's biggest copper miner.
Earlier this week, Hernandez tendered his resignation, effective June 1, citing personal reasons.
In addition to speculating that Hernandez could be headed to London-listed Chilean miner Antofagasta PLC (ANTO.LN) to fill the vacant CEO spot, local newspapers reported his resignation was due to differences with the board over management styles, but Jofre denied these reports.
"We have a very good relationship with Diego Hernandez," he said.
Codelco's board named chief financial officer Thomas Keller as the new CEO.
Earlier this week, Anglo and Codelco agreed to suspend their legal wrangle until June 22 in the hopes of reaching an out-of-court settlement over the stake in the Sur property.
Jofre said the management shuffle wouldn't alter Codelco's strategy in its dealings with Anglo American.
Due to an option dating back to 1978, Codelco holds that it has the right to buy a 49% stake in Anglo's Sur complex, and struck a financing deal for the purchase in October with Japan's Mitsui & Co (8031.TO).
Anglo, meanwhile, argues that the option only allows Codelco to buy a 24.5% stake in the Sur complex following Anglo's sale of a Sur stake in November to Japan's Mitsubishi Corp. (8058.TO) for $5.39 billion.
-By Carolina Pica, Dow Jones Newswires; 56-2-715-8919; firstname.lastname@example.org
--Graciela Ibanez contributed to this article.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 25, 2012 12:08 ET (16:08 GMT)
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