Vedanta board gives chairman ultimatum over link with Russian rival

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The Independent Online

Brian Gilbertson, the chairman of Vedanta and one of the biggest names in the mining industry, could be ousted from the metals company at a board meeting today over his involvement with another mining group.

It is understood that board members will tell him that he must choose between his position at the London-listed Indian company and an offer to head a Russian mining business.

Mr Gilbertson will argue that the activities of Vedanta and Russia's Sual do not overlap. Already on a multibillion-pound remuneration package at Vedanta, Mr Gilbertson is keen to also take on a board position at Sual, which promises to be even more lucrative.

Vedanta shares have not fared well since floating at the end of last year. The departure of the highly rated Mr Gilbertson may dent confidence further, though the company has moved to bolster the board with the appointment last month of Jean-Pierre Rodier, the former chairman and chief executive of Pechiney, as a non-executive director.

Mr Gilbertson was a major draw to investors when Vedanta was looking to float in London. Sual is also gearing up for a London listing and it is thought that Sual wants him to provide a similar role fronting its flotation. Mr Gilbertson has already been advising Sual for several months on an informal basis. One report suggested that a board position at Sual could be worth as much as £50m to Mr Gilbertson, who forged the BHP Billiton merger.

One industry source said: "The Vedanta board meeting could well end up with him [Mr Gilbertson] leaving. He says that the two companies are in different countries with different assets. But the Vedanta board worry about what happens when the two companies expand into new markets. They could be in competition with each other."

The man behind Sual, Russia's second-largest aluminium group, is one of the country's richest men, Victor Vekselberg. He kept a low profile among the "oligarchs" until last year when he pulled off two ground-breaking deals with foreign investors. He brought the Fleming family in as shareholders in Sual and TNK, the oil group that he partly owned, agreed a multibillion-pound joint venture with BP.

Earlier this year, Mr Vekselberg hit the headlines when he bought the world's largest private collection of Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs for an estimated $100m.

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