April 23, 2004
Retailer Named President of Aber and CEO of Harry Winston
Aber Diamond Corp., which owns a 40% stake in the Diavik Mine in Canada, named Thomas O'Neill president of the mining company and CEO of Harry Winston Inc. Aber completed a purchase of a 51% stake in U.S. jeweler Harry Winston April 2. Fenway Partners, which owns the remaining 49% stake in Harry Winston, reportedly gave Aber the option of purchasing the remaining shares upon the sixth anniversary of this transaction. Fenway, a New York City private investment firm, purchased a 55% interest in Harry Winston in December 2000.
Analysts say the move cements Aber's positioning towards retail marketing of the mine's output. Aber's Diavik production share is currently sold through its joint venture partner Tiffany & Co. and through sales offices in Antwerp, Belgium.
The appointment of O'Neill, formerly president worldwide at Burberry, should help build the mining companyıs retail exposure in Europe and Asia, which are considered growing markets for diamonds. O'Neill just oversaw Burberry's three-year expansion into Asia. Analysts say Aber is focusing on the branding power of the Harry Winston name and suggest the entire company may one day be known as Harry Winston. The U.S. retailer is famous for its handmade jewelry and large, superb diamonds and gemstones. Founder Harry Winston, a famous gem impresario in his day, sold some of the most notable diamonds in history, including the Hope Diamond, the Porter Rhodes, Star of the East and the Portuguese.
Before taking the Burberry post in November 2001, Mr O'Neill was president and CEO of LVMH's jewelry division, based in Paris, and president and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group, Americas. Before that he was CEO of Marc Jacobs International and executive vice president at Tiffany & Co's international division.
While O'Neill becomes CEO of Harry Winston, Ronald Winston is still chairman of the company. Robert Gannicott also remains CEO of Aber with O'Neill as president. Toronto-based Aber is Canada's largest publicly traded diamond miner.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.