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Rio Tinto CEO Albanese Sharpens Reputation as A Dealmaker

Rio Tinto's new chief executive, Tom Albanese, is a dealmaker by reputation and has wasted little time showing why since he took over on May 1.

Rio , the world's second biggest miner, unveiled an agreed $38 billion takeover of Canada's Alcan on Thursday to create the world's biggest aluminium producer.

Tom Albanese.
Tom Albanese.

London-based Albanese, 50 in September, is a U.S. citizen who grew up in New Jersey and graduated in mineral economics and mining engineering from the University of Alaska. Perhaps it was during his studies that he first came across Britain's network of canals, used to shift raw materials and finished goods around the nation during the Industrial Revolution.

Perhaps not. Either way, in his leisure time Albanese tours in his own canal narrow boat -- a precursor to the behemoths that today shift coal and iron ore across the oceans.

Working his way up through the mining industry, Albanese was chief operating officer of Nerco minerals when it was acquired by Rio in 1993. Rio quickly put him in charge of a gold, silver, zinc and lead mine in Alaska.

More recently, Albanese has been involved in developing Rio's joint venture exploration agreement with Norilsk Nickel in Russia, and its investments in La Granja in Peru and Ivanhoe Mining's Oyu Tolgoi copper project in Mongolia.

When announcing Albanese's appointment as Rio's CEO last December, Chairman Paul Skinner said: "Tom has been a key player in a number of major Rio Tinto developments over recent years and also in shaping the group's strategic direction."

Albanese's $3.4 million pay package in 2006 would seem to back up Skinner's comment.

Albanese joined Rio's board in March 2006 and became Director, Group Resources in July. He succeeded Leigh Clifford as Rio's CEO on May 1 with an 825,000 pounds salary plus perks, share options and pension. He will be paid a so-called retention bonus, awarded in April 2004, of a maximum $1.134 million on Oct. 1.

Albanese first moved to London in 1995 as group exploration executive. Three years later he became vice president of Kennecott Utah Copper at the Bingham Canyon copper mine, Salt Lake City. When Rio bought a majority holding in North Ltd in Australia in 2000 Albanese transferred to Melbourne as its managing director.

He was appointed CEO of Rio's Industrial Minerals group based in London, with responsibility for the group's borates, talc and titanium dioxide operations, before becoming CEO, Copper and Exploration, in 2004.

Albanese told reporters he saw a bright future for aluminium, used in products from drinks cans to airplanes. With world demand forecast to grow over 6 percent annually until 2011, the enlarged Rio will be able to make around 4.4 million tonnes of aluminium a year, making it the world's biggest producer ahead of current leader, Russia's UC RUSAL.

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