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UPDATE: Rio Tinto CFO's Retirement Plans Spur Management Shakeup

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-- CFO Guy Elliott to retire at the end of 2013

-- Doug Ritchie has been named head of executive strategy

-- Harry Kenyon-Slaney becomes CEO of energy, Alan Davies CEO of diamonds and minerals

(Recasts the 1st paragraph, adds details on the changes in the 2nd, 5th and 9th-10th paragraphs and analyst comments in the 6th-8th paragraphs.)

By Robb M. Stewart

MELBOURNE--Rio Tinto PLC's (RIO) well-regarded chief financial officer, Guy Elliott, plans to retire at the end of 2013 after more than a decade in the post and 30 years with the mining giant.

Chairman Jan du Plessis said Thursday the Anglo-Australian company will shuffle several senior executives and separate responsibility for executive strategy from the role of CFO with the impending departure of Mr. Elliott, who will be 58 when he steps down.

"Guy has enjoyed an outstanding career during his 32 years at Rio Tinto," Mr. du Plessis said in a statement, thanking Mr. Elliott in particular for his contribution to steering the company through the global financial crisis.

Mr. Elliott and Chief Executive Tom Albanese in February elected to forgo their annual bonuses after the company reported a 59% drop in profit for 2011, dented by US$9.29 billion in impairment charges largely relating to the ill-timed US$38 billion acquisition of Canadian aluminum company Alcan Inc. at the top of the market in 2007. Mr. Elliot was instrumental in reviving Rio Tinto's balance sheet when the market turned and the company's high levels of debt forced it to sell businesses and slash costs.

Mr. Elliott will remain on the boards of the London- and Australian-listed arms of Rio Tinto through 2013 and hold onto the role of CFO until a successor is appointed. He wasn't available to comment, and a spokeswoman for the company declined to comment on the succession process.

With Rio Tinto's finances much stronger but commodity prices having slumped this year due to concerns over demand, it appears an appropriate time for Mr. Elliott to retire, said Tim Schroeders, a fund manager at Pengana Capital in Melbourne. Mr. Schroeders' fund has been increasing its holdings of Rio Tinto and rival BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) in recent months as the share prices have languish.

"He is leaving big shoes to fill, but I don't think it will leave a big hole at Rio Tinto," Mr. Schroeders said. "I'm sure Rio has plenty of people in mind in its succession planning."

Glyn Lawcock, an analyst at UBS in Sydney, said the company can be expected to search externally as well as within its own ranks. Candidates will need to have strong executive management experience in addition to financial skills, as the position comes with a seat on the board, he added.

Mr. Elliott was appointed CFO and a director in 2002, having been with the company since 1980. He also is a nonexecutive director of Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA) and until 2010 was a director of Cadbury PLC.

With Mr. Elliott's planned departure, Doug Ritchie will from Jan. 1 be based in London to take on the role of head of executive strategy, and Harry Kenyon-Slaney, currently chief executive of diamonds and minerals, will replace him in Brisbane as chief executive of the energy division. Alan Davies, the president of the international iron ore operations, will take on the role of chief executive of diamonds and minerals from Sept. 1, the company said.

Rio Tinto's CFO had taken on responsibility for strategy following the sudden death in January 2005 of Bob Adams, who had been with the company since 1970 and was a key figure in Rio Tinto's development.

The changes come as Rio Tinto is seeking to exit a basket of aluminum related businesses, including a bauxite mine, an alumina refinery and several smelters in Australia and New Zealand that it last year transferred into a new unit called Pacific Aluminum. The London-based company also is considering selling its diamonds businesses, and a review is ongoing.

BHP Billiton, which last November appointed Graham Kerr as CFO following the retirement of Alex Vanselow, also is considering selling its own diamonds mining operation.

--Rhiannon Hoyle in Sydney contributed to this article.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 11, 2012 23:12 ET (03:12 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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