Rio Tinto's share price rises as miner names Jean-Sébastien Jacques chief executive as Sam Walsh steps down

Catherine Neilan
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An employee of Australian mining giant R
Walsh has been on the board for seven years (Source: Getty)

Rio Tinto has named Copper & Coal boss Jean-Sébastien Jacques as its next chief executive, when incumbent Sam Walsh steps down this summer.

Walsh will retire from the business on 1 July, the miner announced this morning. He will also retire from the board, where he has served for seven years, at the same time.

Jacques, who has been a member of Rio Tinto's executive committee for the last three years, is joining the board and become deputy chief executive from today, to ensure a smooth transition in the coming months.

Investors appeared to back the move: Rio Tinto's share price was up 4.3 per cent on the open.

Rio Tinto said he had brought "greater focus to the copper and the coal businesses" during his time on the committee, praising him for delivering "a step-change in both safety and cash performance while significantly reducing costs". He has mor than 15 years experience working in a range of metals industries around the world, serving as group strategy director for Tata Steel Group from 2007 to 2011.

Rio Tinto chairman Jan du Plessis said "Jean-Sébastien is a very experienced executive with a demonstrated track record and brings a unique blend of strategic and operational expertise. He has run complex operations and projects across five commodities and five continents. J-S is a highly-regarded leader who shares Rio Tinto's strong values and has embraced its culture.

"Today's announcement is the culmination of a comprehensive and deliberate executive succession process. The board has decided that J-S is the right person to lead Rio Tinto in an increasingly complex world filled with both challenges and opportunities for our industry."

Du Plessis also praised Walsh for showing "tremendous leadership" during "a challenging time for our company".

He added: "Against the backdrop of a volatile economic environment, Sam and his team have transformed the business, removing more than $6bn of costs, strengthening the balance sheet and returning more than $13 billion to shareholders. Sam leaves Rio Tinto as a much stronger company, with a bright future."

Walsh said "I have been seriously fortunate to lead one of the world's best companies. After 25 great and enjoyable years with Rio Tinto, now is the right time to pass the reins on to Jean-Sébastien. In his time at Rio Tinto, J-S has proven to be a standout performer as a leader in our business.

Chris Salisbury is appointed acting chief executive of the Copper & Coal product group and will attend the Rio Tinto executive committee in this capacity.

The rest of the executive team remains unchanged.