* Analysts call deal transformative
* Farmer's son turned accountant, then mineral titan
By Michael Erman
NEW YORK, Dec 5 Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold
Inc Chief Executive Richard Adkerson is known for taking
big risks - building his company around mines in Asia, spending
nearly $26 billion to take over larger mining rival Phelps Dodge
and now shelling out $9 billion to take over two oil and gas
The copper and gold miner said on Wednesday it would buy
Plains Exploration & Production Co and McMoRan
Exploration Co, moving back into the energy sector after
more than 20 years. The company is taking on $20 billion in
debt as a result of the deals.
"This is his second transformative deal in recent memory,"
said Dan Rohr, a Morningstar analyst who follows the company.
Yet while Rohr said the Phelps Dodge deal was savvy, he
added that some people might take a different view.
"This deal is a different matter entirely, really taking
Freeport outside of its core business," he said. "That's going
to be a disappointment to a lot of investment, a lot of which
will view this as a breach of trust."
Adkerson, a consummate dealmaker who built Freeport into the
world's largest listed copper company, has been tantalized by
the relatively low cost of financing in recent years and what he
views as a long-term global bull market for commodities.
But he has been frustrated by the lack of acquisition
opportunities where Freeport already operates.
"We're on the call list of every investment banker or
company that has a deal or opportunities to present to us and we
look at them all, and we will ... continue to look at them all.
And I will tell you we believe this is a better opportunity for
shareholders," Adkerson said on a conference call.
Adkerson, 65, was named chief executive of Freeport in 2003
after joining the company in 1989. Even before that he was
connected to Freeport as an outside accountant.
A self-effacing man who grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, and
played high school football with Elvis Presley's cousin,
Adkerson received an MBA degree in 1970 from Mississippi State
University and in 1988, completed the Advanced Management
Program of the Harvard Business School.
His parents grew up on farms in west Tennessee and his
father wound up managing department stores in small Southern
He served as an accounting fellow at the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission, where he led the development of accounting
and disclosure standards for the oil and gas industry in the
He then became a leading partner in Arthur Andersen & Co,
where he headed its global oil and gas practice before joining
Freeport in 1989.
He and his wife, Nancy, have three sons.