Deputy chairman of Tata Steel and chairman of Corus, Jim Leng will step down to become the chairman of the world's third largest mining group, Rio Tinto, as its present chairman, Paul Skinner will leave in March. Skinner is rumored to be take over the reins of the oil giant, British Petroleum,from Peter Sutherland who retires in April.
Leng has been the chairman of Corus since 2003 and subsequently became the deputy chairman of Tata Steel in India after it acquired Corus in 2007 for $12 billion. (See: Tata Steel completes Corus acquisition)
The 61-year old Leng was CEO of Laporte plc, the international speciality chemicals company, from 1995 till the completion its acquisition Degussa AG in June 2001. He was also the CEO of Low and Bonar, the international packaging and specialist materials group.
Currently Leng sits on the director of the British glass maker Pilkington plc and serves as the chairman of its remuneration committee. He is also chairman of the Laporte plc pension funds and a governor of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
Starting his career straight from school, though Leng does not posses academic qualifications, which are at times seen as a pre-requisite for a top job, but his years of experience, did not seem to have deterred Rio Tinto's board who preferred a rank outsider to bring the miner out of the mountain of debts that it had piled up mainly due to its acquisition of the Canadian aluminium group, Alcan in 2007. (See: Update: Alcan to merge with Rio Tinto under $38.1 billion deal)
Skinner, who has been in the saddle at Rio for six years, was instrumental in thwarting the $147-billion hostile takeover bid from its bigger rival BHP Billiton. (See: Rio Tinto rejects BHP's revised offer of $147 billion)
Skinner is rumored to be one of the strong contenders for the job at BP to replace Sutherland, in April, (See: Paul Skinner to step down as chairman of Rio Tinto) and although BP's board has not yet confirmed Skinner's appointment, his exhaustive experience of 40 years in Shell makes him the frontrunner to head the company.
Skinner worked at Shell in the UK, Greece, Nigeria, New Zealand, and Norway and was managing director of Royal Dutch-Shell Group as well as Shell Transport and Trading Company. He was also the CEO of Shell's global oil products business.
Skinner became a director and board member of Rio Tinto in 2001 and subsequently its chairman in 2003.