Russian aluminum giant Rusal says Jean-Pierre Thomas has been elected by the board of directors as the company’s new chairman as part of restructuring moves made in exchange for the lifting of U.S. sanctions.
Thomas, a current independent nonexecutive director, on December 28 was appointed chairman, effective on January 1, the Russian company said in a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange.
The previous chairman, Matthias Warnig, stepped down on December 26 after six years at Rusal, with his resignation being a condition of a deal struck with U.S. officials.
Warnig, an investment banker, is a former East German secret agent who has known Russian President Vladimir Putin since the 1990s.
According to a biographical listing on Bloomberg Capital Markets, the 61-year-old Thomas has been an independent nonexecutive director on the Rusal board since June 28. It says he worked 15 years as a managing partner at Lazard Bank in France.
It also says he has experience in several projects to establish economic cooperation between France and Russia and has served as a special representative of the French president in that capacity.
The U.S. Treasury Department originally imposed sanctions in April on Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska and several companies in which he is a large shareholder, citing "malign activities" by Russia, as well as allegations of past crimes by Deripaska himself.
The sanctions announcement roiled the global stock and aluminum markets, causing a run on Rusal's shares and an exodus of customers that led to fears the world's second-largest aluminum producer might be forced out of business.
With the markets in turmoil and Rusal's future in doubt, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin shortly after announcing the sanctions said Washington's intent was not to destroy the company and the thousands of jobs it provides in Russia and elsewhere around the world.
The Treasury Department said it would remove sanctions against Rusal, its parent En+, and power firm EuroSibEnergo if they restructured to reduce Deripaska's controlling stakes.
Rusal and En+, in the meantime, recruited directors and management not linked to Deripaska in moves apparently stemming from the companies' talks with the Treasury Department over easing the sanctions.
Any restructuring deal is subject to a 30-day review period in the U.S. Congress before it decides whether to lift sanctions.
Upon completion of the restructuring, En+ will own a near 57 percent stake in Rusal and maintain the right to nominate its CEO.