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Spotlight on possible new Glencore CEO

Gary Nagle, Kenny Ives and Nico Paraskevas are on shortlist to replace outgoing chief Ivan Glasenberg as head of world's largest commodity trader

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Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg, who plans to retire in the next few years, has said he wants his successor to look "like me".

London

CONTENDERS for the biggest job in commodity trading - the head of Glencore - will be on parade this week. Outgoing CEO Ivan Glasenberg wanted his successor to look "like me," and the main aspirants do.

Mr Glasenberg announced last December his plan to retire in the next few years, firing the starting gun on a closely watched race. The three most likely choices are Gary Nagle, Kenny Ives and Nico Paraskevas. They're barely known outside Glencore, however, and as the global metals industry descends on London for LME Week, miners, traders and investors will be jostling to find out more. No women are in the running.

The passage of the chief executive officer's baton at Glencore is more than another corporate transition. The firm is the world's largest commodity trader, dominating transactions in most industrial metals, including copper, zinc and aluminum. The CEO of the Swiss-based, London-listed company has had an outsized role in shaping the world of commodity trading since Glencore was founded by Marc Rich in 1974.

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Mr Glasenberg, 62, in charge since 2002, hasn't announced the candidates to succeed him.

While three candidates top the list, nothing is final, according to a person familiar with the matter who declined to be identified discussing a confidential issue.

The succession will depend in part on how and when Mr Glasenberg leaves. Glencore's dealings in Nigeria, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo are under investigation in the US, and that has triggered speculation the CEO may step aside sooner than he envisaged.

If that happens, one of the company's older hands might take the reins - for example Peter Freyberg, recently elevated to oversee the company's industrial operations, or Tony Hayward, the former BP CEO who is currently Glencore's non-executive chairman.

Leading contenders

If looking like Mr Glasenberg is a job requirement, Mr Nagle, 44, may be the man - some who know him call him a "mini-Ivan." He's South African like his boss, and similarly has degrees in commerce and accounting from the University of Witwatersrand. Also like Mr Glasenberg, he built his career by rising through the ranks of Glencore's coal department.

He is also the most asset-focused of the likely successors. That could be an advantage as mining accounts for an increasing share of Glencore's income and the company moves away from its roots as a pure trader.

Mr Nagle joined Glencore in 2000 as an asset manager in the coal department, going on to become chief executive of its Colombian coal operation, Prodeco, in December 2007. Following the acquisition of Xstrata, he was moved to run the company's South Africa-focused alloy assets, and last year was named head of coal assets.

Mr Ives, Glencore's head of nickel since 2012, is probably the candidate best known outside the company's headquarters in Baar, Switzerland. Gregarious and well liked in the metals industry, he has a traditional trader's regard for personal connections. He joined Glencore in 1998, straight out of university, and for the first decade traded copper concentrates, spending a year in China.

His time at Glencore hasn't been without missteps. He reportedly clashed with the then bosses of the copper, lead and zinc department, Telis Mistakidis and Daniel Mate, leading to his transfer to the grain division in 2008, from where he moved to nickel.

The third contender, Mr Paraskevas, is a Greek citizen who spent much of his career in Africa. Like Mr Glasenberg, he is also a chartered accountant and a graduate of the University of Witwatersrand. He also spent time in the coal department, working for Glencore's South African unit Shanduka from 2007 to 2009.

He led the disposal of Las Bambas, the Peruvian copper project that Glencore sold as part of a deal to get Chinese antitrust approval for the Xstrata acquisition.

The timing of that deal was sweet for Glencore: It was consummated just before the copper market plunged. Still, Mr Paraskevas remained relatively unknown to the wider world when he was elevated to run Glencore's powerful copper trading division at the end of 2018.

He has overseen a less aggressive trading strategy by Glencore in the LME copper market. Mr Paraskevas also has taken a more direct role in the trading of cobalt, a byproduct of Glencore's Congolese copper mines that rapidly became one of the group's highest-profile commodities. BLOOMBERG