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Oppenheimer family to exit De Beers

By Giulia Cambieri

The Oppenheimer family is relinquishing control of De Beers, as it has agreed to sell its 40% stake in the world’s largest diamond company to mining group Anglo American.

The UK-based miner, which is listed in both London and Johannesburg, will pay $5.1 billion (€3.7 billion) to the Oppenheimer family to increase its stake in De Beers to between 75% to 85%, from 45% currently. The exact figure will depend on whether the government of Botswana exercises an option to increase its own 15% stake.

Nicky Oppenheimer, representing the Oppenheimers, said it had been a "difficult decision" for the family to take.

But he added: "After careful and deliberate consideration of the offer, and what is in the best interests of the family, we unanimously agreed to accept Anglo American’s offer."

Analyst Archie Kane at Liberum Capital suggested the family is selling because there is no clear successor to Nicky, who was group chairman until February. "There is no obvious family member coming through the ranks to take management control," he said.

Speculation that the Oppenheimers would sell their stake first emerged after Nicky stepped down from the board.

The family has controlled the company, established by Cecil Rhode in 1888, since the 1920s, when Ernest Oppenheimer, who had co-founded Anglo America, became chairman.