Lonmin faces struggle to replace chief executive

The beleaguered platinum miner Lonmin faces a tough search for a new chief executive after current boss Ian Farmer stepped down due to serious illness yesterday.

Mr Farmer had been ill for several months, during which time a series of violent strikes in its South Africa base had badly hit the former FTSE 100 stalwart. He had been at the helm for four years, relocating most of the group's major operational functions from the UK to South Africa.

However, the strikes, in which 46 people were killed, an $817m (£506m) rights issue needed to prevent breaches of the terms of the company's loans, high labour and energy costs, and volatile platinum prices could mean that few big names will want the role. A senior mining source said: "You would be stepping into a situation where there is not much flexibility. If you don't like what's going on with the mines, you can't just suddenly move out of the country."

One candidate to take over would be the former BHP Billiton finance director Alex Vanselow, who is actively looking for a senior role. However, sources close to Mr Vanselow said that he was more likely to stay in the hunt to succeed Cynthia Carroll at Anglo American. Simon Scott, the finance director, will continue to lead the company on an interim basis, but has ruled out taking the job on a permanent basis. Lonmin shares fell 2.6 per cent yesterday and are 45 per cent down on the levels of 12 months ago.

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