The Business On: Marius Kloppers, Chief executive, BHP Billiton

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Ah, the spy who came in from the cold?

That's pushing it. It's true Mr Kloppers has confirmed a WikiLeaks story that he offered to trade confidences with American diplomats over his dealings with China, so frustrated did he feel about the way the Chinese kept tabs on his company. Despite having spent two years in the South African military as a young man, he's not a spy. And he lives in Melbourne, which is warm right now.

So, how is life down under?

Fair dinkum. BHP yesterday unveiled mega profits thanks to the soaring price of the commodities it extracts from the ground – it made $14bn (£8.7bn) in the second half of last year, a record for a UK-listed firm.

No wonder he looks so cheerful

Indeed. It's happy days for Mr Kloppers, who has run the world's largest mining company for almost three-and-a-half years. Not bad for a bloke who won't be 50 until 2012 – especially since he didn't start work until his late twenties after completing the third of his degrees, an MBA from Insead.

How did he make it to the top?

Well, he moves quickly. He's lived in 11 countries so far, having left South Africa during the apartheid years. After a spell in management consultancy that wasn't much fun, he returned home in the early Nineties to work for the company that would eventually become BHP. He's been at the business, which is headquartered in Melbourne, ever since.

So, is he a ruthless type?

In business, definitely. He launched a bid – ultimately unsuccessful – for BHP's big rival, Rio Tinto, within months of becoming boss. He's also been trying to buy up Canada's Potash Corporation, though that one has gotten away, too. Out of the office, though, he's a family man.

Lots of kids?

Three. Two of his own with wife Carin, his childhood sweetheart, plus an adopted daughter, Noni. The couple adopted her when Mr Kloppers met her mother while running an aluminium smelter in Zululand.