Brian Horwood

  • CHS 1954 – 1959
  • Member of CHS Tennis team.
  • Year 12 results: 2nd Class Honours in British History and Economics  
  • Completed Bachelor of Commerce, The University of Melbourne 1960-63
  • Joined The Rio Tinto Group in 1969
  • Held a number of senior management positions in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the UK during a 35 year career with the company
  •  Appointed managing director of Rio Tinto Australia in 2001
  • Chairman of Oil Search, a US$20 billion LNG project, in Papua New Guinea

Brian spent six years at CHS and was inspired by Economics teacher Mr Horne. This encouraged him to study economics and finance at a tertiary level.

After graduating from Melbourne University with his Bachelor of Commerce in 1963, Brian joined one of Australia’s larger companies, Humes Limited, which was involved in the manufacture of a range of steel and concrete products. Humes specialised in building the huge steel pipes used in the Snowy Mountains and Tasmanian hydro-electricity schemes. It was while working in Humes Hobart office that he met his wife to be, Gillian.

With a burning desire to become involved in international business, Brian joined the global mining and metals company, Rio Tinto, in 1969. The attraction of working in a company like Rio Tinto was that its activities were truly global – the construction and operation of mines and smelters often involved international partners, finance was raised from multinational banks and shareholders, output was largely exported to foreign buyers and operations were based in a number of countries, each with their own community engagement challenges. The mining industry has also been the major contributor to Australia’s economic success in the last twenty years. Brian was fortunate soon after joining Rio Tinto to be transferred to work in its treasury and business strategy departments in its London headquarters for three years. This was the first of a number of moves, globally and within Australia, over a 35-year career with the company.

Brian held a range of diversified positions in Rio Tinto, which he found challenging. His first senior appointment was as financial controller for Bougainville Copper Limited in PNG. PNG had just become independent and was finding its way as a new nation and Bougainville Copper contributed much to this country’s economy. Living in a young, multi-racial community on the tropical Bougainville Island was exciting and satisfying.

Later appointments included that of managing director of ISC Alloys Limited, a long established metal-processing business in Birmingham, England. Brian lived with his family in a small village in Shropshire in the beautiful English countryside. He then moved to Perth to become managing director of Dampier Salt Limited, which grew and harvested 8 million tonnes of salt each year in its salt fields in northern Western Australia. The salt was a base feedstock for chemical industries in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. With Japanese and Taiwanese partners, time had to be spent managing expectations of these part owners of the business.

Subsequently, Brian transferred to Brisbane to become managing director of Pacific Coal, a large producer of coal for steel mills in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China, as well as for power stations in those countries and Australia. Pacific Coal was competing for capital investment from the Rio Tinto head parent company, which was looking at potential investments in its US coal mines. Changes were made to improve employee relations and productivity in a heavily unionised work force. These were successful and capital was secured from Rio Tinto to double the number of coal mines owned by Pacific Coal to four.

His final position was in Melbourne, as Managing Director Rio Tinto Australia. Brian’s family moved with him to the various postings and seemed to have enjoyed international moves. Daughters Kate and Alex both lived and worked overseas after completing tertiary education.

After retiring from Rio Tinto, Brian was pleased to accept the offer of chairmanship of the board of directors of Oil Search, which was jointly developing a US$20 billion LNG project in PNG with American partner Exxon Mobil. This entailed Oil Search having to secure US$6 billion to finance its share of the project and to manage the gas fields.

Since retiring from Oil Search, Brian devotes his time to his family, golf, Rotary aid projects and bike riding. He comments that the various sports he played at CHS gave him invaluable skills in understanding how to mix with people, which were an advantage when leading teams and making friends in a new community.

Brian writes: Imagine how the partner I proposed to in 1970 would have reacted if I had said “By the way – if you marry me, you will live in 19 different houses in 35 years.” Luckily, the attraction of an imminent three-year posting to London took Gillian’s mind away from asking such practical questions. Updated 2020

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