Rio Tinto and Foxtel change leaders

Rio Tinto and Foxtel

New chief executives have been installed at Rio Tinto and Foxtel, and both have been internal candidates.

Jean-Sebastien Jacques, the head of the Rio Tinto’s miner’s copper and coal division, will succeed Sam Walsh as chief executive.

Mr. Walsh, a director since 2009 and appointed CEO in 2013, will retire on July 1. Mr. Jacques will join the miner’s board and become deputy CEO with immediate effect.

Jacques, who was born in France but is now a British citizen, is known within the company and among investors as J-S.

He brings to the job experience in a range of industries including bauxite, aluminium and four years as group strategy director at Tata Steel Group.

When he ran the copper and coal business, Jacques sold $US1.8 billion in assets, generating cost reductions of about $US2 billion. Under his helm, the copper businesses returned to a cash flow positive position for the first time since 2010.

News Corp Australia chief executive Peter Tonagh is set to be appointed as the head of pay-TV operator Foxtel, replacing Richard Freudenstein, who will stand down from the company after four-and-a-half years to pursue other interests.

Mr Freudenstein will leave Foxtel at the end of April.

Tonagh, a former management consultant, was COO of Foxtel under Freudenstein but was subsequently promoted to News Corp’s head office.

It remains to be seen whether Foxtel’s other shareholder Telstra will stick to its investment or exit.

Telstra is now considering a $4.5 billion initial public offering or sale of its 50 per cent stake in Foxtel. This would see Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which owns the other 50 per cent, increasing its stake in Foxtel. News Corp has pre-emptive rights under the joint venture’s shareholder agreement.

That however is likely to raise the interest of the competition regulator.

Foxtel’s profits are important for the performance of News Corporation in Australia which is managing financially-challenged newspaper operations.

Foxtel is most popular for its coverage of sports codes including the NRL and the AFL. It shares the rights to these with Channel Nine and Channel Seven respectively. Its most popular shows include Game of ThronesWentworth and The Real Housewives of Melbourne.

At the same time, it is being challenged by subscription video on demand services led by Netflix which are cheaper but don’t offer the wall to wall sports coverage.


Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.

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