Noble hires Alireza

Noble Group hires ex-Goldman banker Alireza as CEO

The Singapore-listed commodities trading house confirms the appointment of Yusuf Alireza as chief executive.
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Yusuf Alireza will become Noble CEO on April 16
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<div style="text-align: left;"> Yusuf Alireza will become Noble CEO on April 16 </div>

Hong Kong’s Noble Group has hired former Goldman Sachs partner Yusuf Alireza as its chief executive. The announcement comes as little surprise. Alireza quit Goldman in mid-November, just days after Noble’s previous chief executive Ricardo Leiman resigned, and it was widely expected that he would end up at Noble.

Chairman Richard Elman has been holding the reins of the Singapore-listed company since the resignation of Leiman, who left for “personal reasons” after Noble announced its first quarterly trading loss in more than a decade. Elman will return to the chairman’s office when Alireza starts on April 16, 2012.

Alireza first joined Goldman in 1997 and became head of the bank’s Asia securities division in 2008. By the time he left, he was co-president of non-Japan Asia and a member of the firm’s global management committee.

“After a long, rewarding career at Goldman Sachs spanning three continents and a number of businesses, I look forward to the exciting challenge of being Noble Group’s next CEO,” he said in a statement issued by the company. “During the time I have spent in Asia, I have had the opportunity to get to know the Noble Group, and have great respect for the organisation and its people.”

The appointment has refocused attention on the company’s plans to launch an initial public offering of its agricultural division, which was first discussed in October as a response to Noble’s slumping share price. The stock has picked up this year, but it is still below the level it was at in November, before Leiman left.

The IPO of Noble Agri, which is expected to raise around $800 million for a 10% to 15% stake, was initially rumoured to be scheduled for the first quarter of this year, but is now planned to come before the end of June, according to one person familiar with the matter, who added that the company can afford to wait for its valuation to improve further as it does not need the cash.

Alireza’s appointment overshadowed another leadership move that is perhaps more significant for Noble shareholders in the short term: the promotion of rising star Will Randall, head of energy coal and carbon, to the group’s main board.

A source close to Noble said that Randall, who is in his mid-30s, is “the most talented bulk commodity guy of his generation, after a decade of building Noble’s world-class coal business from scratch”.

Even so, few analysts have met the man challenging Ivan Glasenberg as the key figure in the global coal business, according to the source. That should be set to change. In addition to joining the board, Randall will now assume the title of head of hard commodities and will be responsible for Noble’s hard energy and metals, minerals and ores businesses, reporting to the chief executive.

“These appointments are part of Noble’s succession planning and further strengthen our leadership as I prepare to reduce my day-to-day involvement,” said Elman. “As a major shareholder myself, and with my detailed knowledge of their abilities, I am more than happy to be handing over to such competent and world-class colleagues.”

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