Oppenheimer stands down from Anglo in historic move

Diamond billionaire Nicky Oppenheimer is retiring from Anglo American  -  leaving the company his grandfather founded without a family member on the board.

The 65-year-old, who is also chairman of De Beers, will step down as a non-executive director of Anglo just before Easter after more than 40 years with the mining giant, including 37 on the board.

The South African, who was educated in Britain at Harrow and Oxford, paid tribute to a 'remarkable company with a great heritage' but said it was time to stand aside.

Anglo American: End of an era

'Anglo American has been in the psyche of every member of my family since the company was founded nearly a century ago,' he said.

'However, there comes a time when it is right to stand aside and allow others to carry the baton. For me that time is now.'

His departure makes it the first time a member of the Oppenheimer family has not been on the board of Anglo.

Industry analysts described it as 'the end of an era' but said the family's influence at Anglo has been waning for some time.

Sir Ernest Oppenheimer set up Anglo in 1917 to exploit the world's biggest gold field, the Witwatersrand near Johannesburg, and in 1926 he took control of De Beers, the diamond group founded by Cecil Rhodes.

The Oppenheimer family still own 40pc of De Beers and Anglo has a 45pc stake.

Sir Ernest's son Harry took over as chairman of Anglo in 1957, and although Nicky never held the position he was deputy chairman from 1983 to 2001 and has been chairman of De Beers since 1998.

Mr Oppenheimer said that his decision to leave Anglo 'has nothing to do with his family's commitment to De Beers'.

He sold a third of the family's stake in Anglo in 2006 for £250m and another £64m shares in December, reducing the family stake to 1.9pc.

He is one of the world's richest men with a fortune of around £3bn.

Oppenheimer, who is married to Strilli Lasch, daughter of industrial tycoon Helli Lasch, splits his time between South Africa and Britain and regularly commutes from his English country home to London by helicopter.

He caused a storm in 2005 when he said Africa is suffering from 'donation fatigue', arguing that Africans need education not charity.

Anglo chairman Sir John Parker said Oppenheimer had made a 'significant contribution' to Anglo over the last 40 years.

'We will miss Nicky's wise counsel, sound business sense and integrity,' he said.

Anglo shares rose 128.50p to 3,307.00p.