Guy Debelle leaves Fortescue as executive exodus gathers pace

Former Reserve Bank deputy governor Guy Debelle has become the third senior executive this week to free themselves from the orbit of Andrew Forrest, leaving Fortescue Futures Industries (FFI) for a vanadium minnow Tivan.

Debelle left his post at the Reserve Bank less than 18 months ago to become chief financial officer of the miner’s green energy arm, FFI, but stepped down after a serious cycling accident to become a part-time director.

Guy Debelle was front-runner to be the next Reserve Bank Governor before he left the RBA for Fortescue.
Guy Debelle was front-runner to be the next Reserve Bank Governor before he left the RBA for Fortescue.Credit: Oscar Colman

On Friday, he joined the board of ASX-listed Tivan, which is developing critical minerals deposits in northern Australia, and has a market capitalisation 600 times smaller that of Fortescue.

Debelle’s departure follows the shock exit of Fortescue Metals Group’s chief executive Fiona Hick on Monday, which was swiftly followed by the departure of the iron ore miner’s chief financial officer Christine Morris. Both Hick and Morris had short stints at the miner, with the CEO leaving just shy of six months in the role and Morris only staying for three months as CFO.

Fortescue shares were down 4.9 per cent on Friday, wiping more than $3 billion from the value of the iron ore miner.

Debelle said joining Tivan was a great opportunity to help Australia push the energy transition, especially in the supply of critical minerals.

Fortescue executive chairman and Australia’s richest man, Andrew Forrest, said earlier this week that the steady churn of senior executives was a natural part of the process of a company reinventing itself.

“Have you ever seen a massive company in transition before, in deep transition?” he said on Wednesday, prior to the departure of Morris and Debelle. “Well, I haven’t either, but it’s my responsibility to make one.”


He predicted there would be about 12 “C-suite” level changes as the iron ore miner chased its target of zero carbon emissions by 2030, while it built another business in clean energy.

“Some people stay 15 years, some people don’t like it when they get here,” he said. “Completely fine, absolutely normal.”

Hick’s shock departure after six months diverted attention to Fortescue’s full-year financial results when an unexpected $US726 million ($1.1 billion) writedown at its troubled Iron Bridge magnetite operation dragged net profit down to $US5.5 billion ($8.5 billion) for fiscal 2023.

The billionaire said Fortescue was expected to deliver abnormal results every year, “yet we’re also expected to be completely normal in everything else”.

He dismissed concerns that the loss of senior managers may result in insufficient dissenting voices to challenge his ideas.

“We have a suite of values which really encourages people speaking up,” he said on Wednesday.

“There is no discord with that at all.”

The Business Briefing newsletter delivers major stories, exclusive coverage and expert opinion. Sign up to get it every weekday morning.

Most Viewed in Business

Source: Thanks