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Ivan Glasenberg counting the days till March the Fifteenth

That’s when the multinational trading company Glencore that Glasenberg heads will finally seal their merger deal with mining giant Xstrata.

Sealing a deal of such magnitude is no mean achievement for any business. However the ninety billion dollar package that South African born Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore  put together is an even more remarkable coup when considering that it was achieved after pulling he succeeded helping move his company forwards out of  a somewhat shady past into  becoming one of the world’s leading global traders.

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Ivan Glasenberg / Wikipedia

Ivan Glasenberg / Wikipedia

Over the years Ivan Glasenberg has been famously reluctant to discuss his early days in the global commodity trading business apart from the fact that he always found it fascinating. Born and raised in Johannesburg, where as a young man his athletic talents saw him become champion of South Africa.

In search of a career outside of his apartheid ridden country, Glasenberg set off in the direction of California to study for his MBA, and apparently was there that he first discovered his deep interest in commodities trading.

Upon graduating, Glasenberg, then his mid-20s, made his way to the East coast and soon found himself making his first steps in the world of global commodity trading in the offices of March Rich and Co, at that time one of the world’s top commodities traders. There is little doubt that the young Ivan Glasenberg learned a lot about his chosen profession, not just during the time  that he spent learning the ropes in Rich’s New York offices but also  while heading departments for Rich in both Sydney and Beijing.

Rich was inclined to give talented young people like Ivan Glasenberg total freedom of action in running their particular operation, a formula that proved to be highly successful in those lazy hazy days of the mid-eighties to early nineties. These young and successful global commodity traders, of whom Glasenberg was a leading light, became known across the commodity trading business as “Rich boys” with Glasenberg generally regarded among his peers as the “alpha” dog of the pack.

It was also common knowledge that some of Rich’s business methods were not quite above board, and when he and his company fell into a form of disgrace it was somewhat appropriate that it was “ Rich’s boys” who got together to buy out their former mentor in 1993.


The first two decisions that the “Rich boys” made was to change the company’s name to Glencore and appoint Glasenberg as its CEO.

At that point in his career, Ivan Glasenberg was still in his mid-30s but had been handed responsibility for running a company that was already turning over around thirty billion dollars a year, operating out of forty offices worldwide and with more than a thousand staff. What is for sure is that neither Ivan Glasenberg or any of his colleagues that were employed by Rich had any stains whatsoever on their character or integrity.

Instead of Ivan Glasenberg and his colleagues concentrated on consolidating and building Glencore till it became a major global force in commodities trading. In the twenty years that he was at the helm of Glencore, Ivan Glasenberg remained totally tightlipped about the spread of the company’s activities which he could do with impunity as long as the company remained in private hands.

However all that was to change when Glasenberg took  Glencore public on the Hong Kong and London Stock Exchanges during the early part of 2011. The Glencore flotation went down stock market yesterday as one of its largest, with Glasenberg’s  stock holdings being valued  at $8.8 billion, earning him the distinction of becoming among the wealthiest people in Switzerland, where he makes his home.

One of the reasons, analysts concur, why Glasenberg agreed to float Glencore’s shares on the stock market had been that he has for a couple of years been casting his eyes over a possible merger with mining giant miner Xstrata, which would create a global commodity trading and mining entity of the joint value of ninety billion dollars.

Apparently negotiations were already well underway between Glencore and Xstrata when Glasenberg took the company public and now almost two years later  with most of the more intricate issues taken care of the merger deal is due to be signed, pending agreement by shareholders, within the next few days.

Some of the details that have been made public show that after a period of six months Xstrata’s current CEO will step down allowing Ivan Glasenberg to take full control of the global trading superpower he was largely responsible for creating and of which he will be the second largest shareholder, after none other than the Emirate of Qatar.



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