Meet the 71-year old adventurer in the hostseat

As Glencore unveils its London mega-float

COLOUR and excitement returned to the City yesterday as Glencore announced a former French foreign legionnaire, Algerian war veteran, author, explorer and financier as its new chairman. Simon Murray (pictured) will be tasked with leading the firm’s up-to $11bn (£6.7bn) float, valuing it at about $60bn, the details of which were confirmed yesterday.

The move heralded a return to the days when interesting and complex characters, rather than faceless executives, ran the City.

Earlier this week, Murray said:?“This is very exciting, but you are talking to someone who has been chased by a leopard. You are talking to someone who has been shot at with a machine gun and missed.”

Murray, whose tales of derring-do include carrying two severed heads in his backpack during his time in the French Foreign Legion, was born in Leicester in central England. As a teenager in 1960 he joined the Foreign Legion on a whim, going on to fight for five years in Algeria. He later wrote a bestseller, Legionnaire, about his time in north Africa.

It was made into a film in 2002.

Educated at Bedford School, one of England’s oldest public schools, Murray was turned down by the British Army before signing up with the Foreign Legion.

“I think perhaps I was just a young buck without much confidence in himself setting an extreme challenge to see if he could hack it in a man’s world,” he says in his book.

He has since run a 240km race in the Moroccan desert, climbed Mount Everest and become the oldest man to walk unsupported to the South Pole. Glencore unveiled its blockbuster initial public offering (IPO) to the market yesterday, following months of speculation.

The Swiss-based firm, which markets and produces metals and other commodities, is seeking to raise between $6.8bn and $8.8bn in a London listing, making it the biggest float ever offered in the capital.

A secondary share offer of approximately $2.2bn worth of existing stock in the company will be sold in Hong Kong.

The deal will value Glencore at about $60bn, making it one of the top 20 London-listed firms by market capitalisation and sending it straight into the FTSE 100.

It will be just the third firm to attain blue chip status on its first day of trading, following BT in 1984 and BG Group in 1986.

The firm is aiming to complete its IPO in May, and will use $3.2bn of the proceeds to buy Kazakhstan mining group Kazzinc.

It will also pay off debts and use the funds to provide working capital for the next three years.

Senior management in the company, including chief executive Ivan Glasenberg, will become billionaires overnight, although they will be locked into shares for five years.

Glasenberg, who owns a 15 per cent stake in the firm, will be made into one of the world’s richest men following the IPO.

Almost 500 partners in the firm will also become millionaires in the deal, but will also be blocked from selling their shares immediately following the float.

Former BP chief executive Tony Hayward will join Murray on the board as a senior independent director, as he begins to rebuild his business career after departing the oil giant amid the Gulf of Mexico oil spill crisis last year.