(Repeats with no changes)
By Josephine Mason
NEW YORK, March 26 For decades, Trafigura's
co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Claude Dauphin was 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
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
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
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.
Alongside its traders' smarts, it has a vast portfolio of
assets from African petrol stations, Texas docks to a Brazilian
port and iron ore terminal, a private equity vehicle, vast
offtake deals and almost 9,000 employees across 58 countries.
"Claude's a trader. If you cut him through, it says trader,"
says one person who has worked for Dauphin and knows Weir.
"Jeremy's a banker and a good manager."
FROM ZINC ONWARD
Both men began their careers dealing with zinc, a relatively
obscure but lucrative trading niche: Dauphin ran Mark Rich's
lead and zinc business in Bolivia for five years in the late
1970s. Weir cut his teeth at a now-defunct zinc miner in
Australia. But the similarities seem to end there.
Dauphin, now one of the most famous names in oil trading,
spent 40 years traveling the world to put together deals for
everything from Congolese copper to Nigerian oil.
For six months in 2006-07, the billionaire - estimated by
Forbes to be the world's 36th richest Frenchman - spent almost
six months behind bars in Ivory Coast in pre-trial detention
involving a dispute over toxic waste dumping.
Trafigura paid a $200 million settlement and the country's
prosecutor declared that there was no evidence of any illegality
or misconduct by any Trafigura company or staff.
In one of his only public statements, Dauphin called it a
"terrible ordeal." Trafigura has adopted a more open approach
since the episode, which drew political, legal and public
scrutiny, yet Dauphin has remained fiercely private.
Those who met or worked with him say his focus is singular:
building Trafigura. Total turnover has surged more than 10-fold
in the past decade, and nearly trebled since 2009 to reach $133
billion last year. Owning less than 20 percent of the company,
his net worth was estimated by Forbes at $1.12 billion.
One senior executive who sat next to Dauphin at a dinner
during London Metal Exchange week several years ago said the
conversation had one topic: "business, business, business."
Spending half the year criss-crossing the globe on one of
the Trafigura jets, he expects his traders to keep up with his
ferocious pace, sources who have worked with the company say.
His current illness, which the company has not specified, has
grounded him, however, a source familiar with the company said.
While Dauphin built his career by getting his hands dirty
with raw materials, Weir took a different path.
After studying geology at the University of Melbourne in the
1980s, he shifted toward the derivatives side of the commodity
business. He ran the hedging book for mid-sized Australian miner
Pasminco before working nine years for storied investment bank
N.M.Rothschild & Sons in Australia and later London.
Here he showed at least one trait in common with Dauphin:
"He's an extremely bright Australian with all the
laidbackness that that implies, except that he's very focused on
his career development," said Geoffrey Sambrook, a veteran
trader who worked for Weir in the 1990s at Rothschild.
When Weir joined in 2001 as head of metal derivatives
trading, structured products and risk management, Trafigura was
still a minnow focused mainly on oil and traditional base
metals. But its owners had big ambitions to challenge Glencore
as the world's largest, most diversified natural resources
Just two years after joining, Dauphin put Weir in charge of
launching the firm's alternative investment vehicle Galena Asset
Management, which included a multibillion-dollar hedge fund.
As Galena chief executive, he has overseen one of the
boldest moves by Trafigura to diversify from pure physical
trading, by launching a private equity fund, increasing trade
finance business and investing in mining projects.
He's also been lucky. The business has filled a gap left by
European and U.S. banks retreating as regulatory scrutiny of
physical trading has curbed their appetite for risk. Weir joined
the Trafigura management board in 2008.
People who have worked with or know Weir say he is easy
going and approachable. He is equally comfortable in the office
or at client dinners chatting about sports, particularly rugby,
one of his homeland's favorite past times.
Sources say Weir also has a softer management style that
sets him apart from his boss's brash old-school approach and
fierce temper, which sources say has been displayed in the
office when traders are not considered to be performing.
From mine economics to mergers, the incoming CEO has already
proven his bona fides helping run companies such as Cadillac
Ventures Inc, a small Toronto-listed copper exploration
company in which Trafigura owns roughly 25 percent.
"Jeremy's a very good businessman and very sound
geologically," said Maurice Stekel, a business consultant and
Cadillac board member. "He can definitely put the two ends
(Additional reporting by Euan Rocha in Toronto; Editing by
Jonathan Leff and Lisa Shumaker)