WE described Ephron last year as a kind of ‘stealth’ executive who likes to operate below the radar. We also said he could have a problem maintaining that position “given the rising profile of Glencore in the increasingly politically charged South African coal business.” That’s exactly what happened in 2015 when Glencore found itself in a head-on confrontation with its largest South African domestic customer, Eskom. The row erupted over the Optimum Colliery that supplies Eskom’s Hendrina power station. Glencore had already shut down the export side of Optimum’s operations, but had kept the Eskom business going – although this was also loss-making – pending a renegotiation of the Eskom contract. That’s where it went awry. Newly appointed Eskom CEO, Brian Molefe, dug his heels in and insisted Optimum was held to the terms of the original contract. He also slapped Optimum with an R2.2bn penalty claim. Glencore subsequently put Optimum into business rescue proceedings. The mine was bought by the Gupta family, the controversial Indian entrepreneurs. The bust-up at Optimum is not a healthy situation given the wider implications for future contracts between Eskom and the coal mining companies.
LIFE OF CLINTON
He’s a graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand with a B.Com (1990) and a B.Acc (1991). He’s been involved in running Glencore’s South African coal operations since about 2005 and has been particularly involved on the marketing side where Glencore now plays a dominant role in the country’s coal exports. He’s a director of the Richards Bay Coal Terminal in which Glencore is the largest shareholder.
- Web Address: www.glencore.com