Marc Rich, founder of the Swiss trading house that evolved into Glencore, says the group has little choice but to become a public company, despite believing that secrecy is an advantage in the commodities market. In his first interview in at least 20 years, Mr Rich backed Glencore’s steps to become a public company this year and even said he planned to buy shares in the business that he sold in 1993.
Glencore is planning a flotation in London and possibly Hong Kong, or a listing via a merger with Xstrata, the UK-listed miner in which the trader owns a 34 per cent stake. Mr Rich said that for a trader, it is “much more convenient” not to be a public company. “Discretion is an important factor of success in the commodity business,” he told Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche in an interview by Daniel Ammann, a journalist and the author of the biography The King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich. But he acknowledged that it now made sense for Glencore to go public.
“They probably don’t have a choice. Transparency is requested today. It limits your activity, to be sure, but it’s just a new strategy to which they have to adapt to,” said Mr Rich.
“I basically see two reasons for going public: Glencore gets access to more money. It is a way of funding your business and to finance growth. Plus, you have more liquid shares. It is easier to leave the company and redeem your shares.”
Mr Rich founded the commodities business under the name of Marc Rich + Co in 1974, and sold to management in 1993 for about $600m. Bankers today value the group at close to
$60bn (€44bn). The management, including current chief executive Ivan Glasenberg, changed the name to Glencore and over time moved away from some of the businesses of Mr Rich’s era, including dealing with some countries that were shunned by others, such as apartheid South Africa and Iran.
Rudolph Giuliani, then a US prosecutor, indicted Mr Rich for tax evasion and he became a fugitive in Switzerland. On leaving office in 2001, President Bill Clinton pardoned Mr Rich.
The founder praised the current management, describing Mr Glasenberg as a “brilliant man”. “I hired him in 1984 as a junior trader. I liked him from the start. He is intelligent, he is
analysing well, he is very hard-working and he has an impressive presence,” he said.