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Mick Davis linked with Rio chairman role

Mick Davis is being tipped as the frontrunner for the soon-to-be-vacant Rio Tinto (LN:RIO) chairman role, according to the Financial Times.
Mick Davis linked with Rio chairman role Mick Davis linked with Rio chairman role Mick Davis linked with Rio chairman role Mick Davis linked with Rio chairman role Mick Davis linked with Rio chairman role

Is Davis ready to come on board at Rio?

Staff reporter

Rio chairman Jan du Plessis earlier this year said he planned to stand down as chairman before the company's 2018 annual shareholder meeting in Australia, usually held in April, and the former Xstrata CEO has now had his name linked with the upcoming vacancy. 
The process to hire a new chairman was pushed off course in June after John Varley, the non-executive director leading the search for a replacement, resigned.
But, the latest rumours swirling around Rio HQ are that Davis, the head of private equity-backed vehicle X2 Resources, is being lined up as du Plessis' replacement. The FT, citing people familiar with the matter, reported he has held talks with Rio over the position.
Although Davis' credentials as a chairman are unknown, it is hardly surprising his name has come up.
He has had little success gaining a toehold in the tier-one assets he thought would become available during the downturn, with X2 reportedly looking at Rio's coal assets and a variety of BHP (AU:BHP) operations over the past few years.
Despite having raised US$5.6 billion for such acquisitions, neither deal came through. BHP ended up spinning off its unloved assets into South32 (AU:S32) and Rio eventually sold some of its Hunter Valley assets to Yancoal (AU:YAL).
He has since given up hope of buying big assets and, last year, freed investors from financial commitments to his mining fund.
Yet, while he has proven unsuccessful with X2, his record at Xstrata, which was taken over by Glencore (LN:GLEN) in 2013, was very good, having acquired several tier-two assets and turned them into tier-one operations. 
M&A is what Rio needs at the moment. 
The company has been returning oodles of cash to shareholders and has improved its balance sheet through a massive debt reduction plan over the past three or four years, but its project pipeline looks bare. 
Aside from phase two of Oyu Tolgoi and the very long-term Resolution project it is working on with BHP in the US, it does not have a major copper development on the books. 
Should commodity prices keep improving and investor focus shift further to growth, it could be left behind by peers with more growth projects in their portfolio.
It is also worth remembering that Jean-Sébastien Jacques came into the Rio fold last year with strategic M&A and copper growth on his agenda. Davis might be the man to bolster this focus.