New No 2 has watched Anglo's cash for 17 years
THE retirement of some of the older guard at Anglo American Corporation paves the way for the appointment of Mike King as deputy chairman.
King has overseen Anglo's financial affairs and corporate finance activities since 1980, but can seldom have been busier than in the past two years, during which he has been the prime negotiator in Anglo's disposal of stakes in Johnnic and JCI Ltd, the securing of a $1-billion offshore group loan facility as well as many other deals including the purchase and resale of a slice of Lonrho.
It is hard to say which was the most challenging, but King loves being round the table. "No two negotiations are the same. Johnnic buyer Cyril Ramaphosa was a trade unionist and politician with less of a financial background, for example, than the Swiss gnomes," notes King. "JCI buyer Mzi Khumalo had a businesslike approach, but there was already a model after the Johnnic deal so JCI went a lot smoother."
This is particularly so as there were two final runners in the negotiations race, the winner tendering 50c a share more than the runner-up.
King's execution of fiduciary duty for Anglo shareholders is unsurpassed for both timing and pricing. Proceeds from the three sales, precipitated through black-empowerment initiatives, easily exceed R6-billion and King's promotion to deputy chairman and his role as chairman of the finance division ensures his involvement in replacing the investments.
"They were significant businesses and made quite an important profit contribution. The challenge now is to replace them with new investments where the returns exceed those in the money market. As Harry Oppenheimer once said, it's more fun to buy things than to have money in the bank."
The crux of King's role is to assess project risk. "Once we embark on a project, we have to rely on the operations' managers to deliver the goods.
For the meantime, cash in the money market is an adequate place to keep realised funds, as the equity-market value of JCI shares has declined since their sale: "Who was to know that the gold price would misbehave after the tendered price had been accepted?"
King joined UAL Merchant Bank in 1961 after serving articles and qualifying as an accountant at Deloitte & Co. His experience there covered wide-ranging corporate financial activity and a spell at Lazard Bros in London. He became deputy managing director in 1972, and moved to Anglo two years later, shortly after UAL merged with Syfrets then Nedbank. Anglo, De Beers and E Oppenheimer & Son were the founders of UAL and King had established a strong association with Anglo. "So my background is in banking and corporate finance and I will continue to concentrate on that side, planning forward as well as explaining our strengths to critics and those analysts who don't seem to understand our group."
King has been criticised for being on a score of company boards. "I am trying to get off a few, and some are taking care of themselves, such as the Amplats consolidation of four companies into one. But I must say I have found it useful to have a spread of directorships as it gives me a perspective of what is happening geographically as well as across the business spectrum."
In spite of this sphere of influence, King has maintained a low profile: there are only three items in the Times Media library's personal press-clippings file since 1988. In keeping with this, King declines to mention his implementation of the finance division's employment equity programme aimed at recruiting the best candidates, introduced well before the Labour Relations Act was promulgated.
His great hobby is growing orchids and indigenous bulbs. "I get a kick out of seeing them come through in the garden."
King is married to Nikki; he has a chartered accountant son and a heart research specialist daughter.