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Sappi Names Jonathan Leslie as new Chief Executive Officer

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Press release from the issuing company

February 10, 2003 -- Johannesburg - Sappi Limited announced today that Jonathan Leslie, currently Chief Executive of the Diamonds and Gold Group of Rio Tinto plc, will join the group in April this year as Chief Executive Officer.  At that time Sappi will split the roles of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Eugene van As, the current Chief Executive Officer, will retire as CEO and become Non-executive Chairman of the group. Jonathan Leslie is a businessman with a great deal of international experience, and has had a highly successful career at Rio Tinto where he has been responsible for a wide range of corporate activities, including in the past the Rössing Uranium mine in Namibia, the Copper Group and, more recently, the Diamonds and Gold Group.  He has lived and worked in many countries of the world and is familiar with managing an operation with diverse cultures.  He and his wife, Pepe, will be relocating to Johannesburg from London where they now live. Sappi announced about a year ago that it intended splitting the role of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, when Eugene van As, the current Executive Chairman, retires, and that it was conducting a global search for a new Chief Executive Officer.  Commenting on the process undertaken by Sappi, David Brink, a Non-executive Director of the group and Chairman of the group's Selection Committee, said today that the board had set out to find a new leader for the group that met specific characteristics.  Ideally, it wanted somebody who would lead the group for the next eight to ten years, and who could build on Sappi's successful formula, keeping the culture of the group intact whilst growing it to its full potential.  Mr Brink said the Committee had an excellent group of internal and external candidates to choose from, and the initial short list of candidates included four nationalities.  The board is satisfied that it has chosen the best possible candidate to lead the company. Jonathan Leslie said today that he was very excited about joining Sappi Limited, "I was attracted by the group's business strategy, its successful track record and its already significant market shares in Africa, Europe and the United States.  I look forward to developing the business further and attaining its strategic objectives.  Sappi seems to be well positioned and poised to be able to grow.  I have been particularly impressed when studying the group's reports by its financial discipline and rigorous process of allocating capital.  I look forward to working with the Sappi team". Eugene van As, Sappi's current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said "I am delighted that Jonathan has agreed to join the Sappi group, and I could not be more pleased with the board's choice.  He is a first-rate executive and he brings valuable skills and international experience to the group.  I know he will get unqualified support from the Sappi team and will be an excellent leader and get the best out of all of them". As regards his new role as Non-executive Chairman, van As said, "I have been at Sappi a very long time and I am conscious of the fact that it is time for change and for new dynamic leadership.  I am also very conscious of the need for the new CEO to be the undisputed leader of the business.  When I hand over executive responsibilities after a short transition period to familiarise Jonathan with the business, he will lead the company.  My role as Non-executive Chairman will be to provide a sounding board for Jonathan when he needs it, and to ensure that the appropriate debate on major strategic issues and decisions is properly and transparently aired at board meetings, and to maintain the culture of open debate and good corporate governance".

 

 

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