Rio Tinto has brought in Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Philip Richards to lead its legal team on an interim basis as its search for a permanent successor continues.
Richards was seconded to lead Rio Tinto’s legal operations in December after former boss Debra Valentine saw her contract “terminated”.
The FTSE 100 giant announced in November that Valentine had “stepped down” from the position amid an investigation into contractual mining payments made in 2011 totalling $10.5m.
These payments were “made to a consultant providing advisory services on the Simandou project in Guinea”, according to a statement.
Legal matters had been handled in the interim by chief financial officer Chris Lynch, although Richards has since been parachuted in to support the team. A recruitment process for a permanent successor is understood to be ongoing.
London-based Richards, who has been a partner at Freshfields since 1987, has a wide range of clients in the financial institutions sector. He spent four years in Milan as one of the two managing partners for the firm’s Italian offices.
He has worked on numerous high-profile transactions including the merger of Scottish Widows with Lloyds TSB, the takeover of M&G by Prudential and the subsequent sale of M&G Re by Prudential to Swiss Re.
Freshfields is not historically the magic circle firm of choice for Rio Tinto, with Linklaters scooping the majority of of its major corporate mandates. Linklaters scored the lead role on Rio Tinto’s $34bn bid for Canadian aluminium company Alcan in 2007, with Freshfields bagging the EU competition work for the target. Linklaters also acted on an offering of $2bn of notes by Rio Tinto Finance in 2011, as well as the Chinese government’s $19.5bn cash injection into the mining group.
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