Still, there’s nothing like putting a price on the destruction of the only inland site in Australia to show signs of continual human occupation through the last Ice Age. And to get access to a trifling 8m tonnes of iron ore as well, equivalent to roughly 2pc of total production from the region last year.
Chairman Simon Thompson needs to get a grip. Condemnation has reached fever pitch. Large shareholders have been queuing up to publicly express their outrage, and are unlikely to be appeased without further punishment at Thursday’s annual meeting.
On Wednesday, the Church of England’s pension board became the latest to condemn Rio’s response. Although it didn’t call for Jacques’ head, reports claim some investors privately are, and several board members are pushing for more severe reprimands.
With two former Australian prime ministers also joining the chorus of disapproval, including Kevin Rudd who joked that Rio Tinto will soon be known as “Rio TNT”, the whole affair has spiralled into an embarrassing corporate governance charade that could leave a serious stain on its reputation.
Yet, Thompson may feel his hands are somewhat tied by Rio’s own internal report, which found that no single individual was responsible for the destruction at Juukan Gorge. Rio has also said that Jacques was not aware of the full significance of the site until after it was destroyed, as if that is some kind of reasonable defence, which of course it isn’t. The point is he should have known.
So here’s a fitting compromise: the board should push the button on Jacques’ exit then order an inquiry to determine how significant he was to the company.
New Look vs landlords
There’s a fascinating standoff taking place between troubled fashion chain New Look and its landlords. It’s tempting to think “so what?”. Negotiations between financially-stretched retailers and property owners are par for the course these days.
Yet, this has added significance because New Look is trying to persuade landlords to accept turnover-based rents but they are loath to do so. For a start it would mean taking a big hit.