Sam Walsh (businessman)

Rio Tinto Group Kettering University Brighton Grammar School
Sam Walsh
Sam Walsh, CEO, Rio Tinto
Sam Maurice Cossart Walsh

(1949-12-27) 27 December 1949 (age 70)
EducationBrighton Grammar School
Alma materTaylor's College, Melbourne University
Kettering University
OccupationFormer CEO, Rio Tinto Group
Spouse(s)Leanne Walsh, née Roki
Parent(s)Maurice John Walsh
Winifred Margaret Lois Cossart

Sam Walsh AO (born 27 December 1949) is an Australian businessman who was elected to the Mitsui & Co board as a non-executive Director on 21 June 2017. Prior to this he was chief executive officer (CEO) of London-based mining company Rio Tinto Group, from 2013 to 2016.[2][3]

Prior to becoming CEO of Rio Tinto, Walsh served as Rio Tinto chief of the Iron Ore group, and of Rio Tinto Australia. Based in the Australian city of Perth, he oversaw company's mining operations and expansions in Pilbara, Western Australia.[4]

Early life

Sam Walsh was born 1949 and he grew up in the Melbourne seaside suburb of Brighton. He was one of five children. As a boy he actively engaged in weekly church going, scouting, and learning to play the piano and the trumpet. When Walsh was 15, his father was ill and after a series of operations his father died suddenly of a heart attack. Walsh described the death of his father as a time when everything changed.[5]

"My mother had never even written a cheque, she had never looked after the bills and that was a role I stepped into. I was managing the home finances and being the leader of the family, which continued on. You lose a lot. You lose the father figure, the advice and counsel. There's something lost that you don't get back. But if I look back, it did throw me in the deep end early and I swam and swam well."[5]

Walsh attended Brighton Grammar School and Taylor's College in Melbourne.[6] He graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from Melbourne University, and he completed a Fellowship Program at Kettering University in Michigan.[1] He became a Fellow of Australian Institute of Management, Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply Management, Australian Institute of Company Directors, and Australian Academy of Technical Sciences and Engineering.[4]

After graduating in commerce from Melbourne University, Walsh began his career as a trainee buyer at General Motors.[5] During the next 20 years in the automotive industry, he was promoted to and held senior positions at General Motors and at Nissan Australia.


Walsh joined Rio Tinto in 1991. He subsequently held a number of management positions within Rio Tinto, including chief executive of the Aluminium group 2001-2004, and chief executive of the Iron Ore group 2004-2013.[4] His responsibilities covered operations and projects in Australia, Canada, Guinea and India, as well as Dampier Salt and Rio Tinto Marine. During 2004-2009, he oversaw the rapid expansion of the Iron Ore group. More than US$7 billion was spent on mine expansions and major infrastructure developments with net earnings exceeding US$4 billion.[7]

Meanwhile, in 2005 Walsh was appointed a director of the Western Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and he was appointed a director of Seven West Media in 2008.[1] The following year he was appointed a director of Rio Tinto.[4] Residing in Perth, Walsh actively supported the arts in Western Australia. In 2008, he became Chairman of WA chapter of Australian Business Arts Foundation.[1] He was also president of the Western Australia branch of Scouts Australia.[1]

In 2010, Walsh was appointed an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia.[1]

On 17 January 2013, Walsh was appointed CEO of Rio Tinto Group, London. In his first year at the helm, Walsh took the company from a US$3 billion loss to a US$3.7 billion profit.[8] According to the company annual report in March 2014, Walsh was paid US$9.1 million in 2013, up 44% from the $6.3 million he earned in 2012. The figure included salary, a cash bonus, shares and other benefits. His predecessor Tom Albanese was paid 4 million pounds ($6.7 million) in 2012.[8] In return, the company reported Walsh exceeded expectations. He promised to cut operating costs by $2bn last year and achieved $2.3bn. He said he would cut exploration and development costs by $750 million and he cut them by $1bn. He vowed to pull capital expenditure down from more than $17.5bn to $13bn, and he hit that target.[8]

On 27 March 2014, Walsh was awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Commerce at the graduation ceremony of The University of Western Australia.[9]

Rio Tinto Chairman Jan du Plessis confirmed on 23 October 2014, the company had retained Walsh for the longer term and Walsh would continue as CEO of Rio Tinto beyond the end of 2015. Originally, he was given a three-year contract. Walsh described his retention as a time to turn around the company fortunes by engendering the successful culture of how the company handled business.[5] However, in March 2016 Walsh announced he was stepping down on 1 July 2016. Du Plessis revealed Jean-Sebastien Jacques, whom Walsh appointed to head Rio Tinto copper and coal, would be the new CEO.[10]

According to resource analyst Tim Treadgold, "Mr Walsh was leaving the company in reasonably good shape. He was handed a very difficult job but he had a reputation for getting things done. I think Sam has been a breath of fresh air at Rio, he's cleaned up a lot of mistakes they've made. But it is probably time for a new and younger man to come in."[3]

It was reported, Walsh would receive $1.4 million to cover the remaining nine months of his contract.[10]

In November 2016, Walsh was one of two former Rio Tinto Chief Executives linked through leaked emails of former Rio Tinto executive Alan Davies to a payment of $10.5 million USD payment to a consultant Francois de Combret associated with the development of the Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea.[11] [12] [13]

Carbon emissions & economic growth

Carbon emissions

Sam Walsh appeared on ABC 7.30 Report with presenter Leigh Sales ahead of the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane, November 2014. As CEO of the second largest mining company in the world, Walsh welcomed the deal between the US and China to reduce carbon emissions. The deal was announced at the Asia-Pacific leaders meeting in Beijing. Walsh viewed the focus of the announcement on technology advances as the key to solving carbon emissions.[14]

According to Walsh, Rio Tinto reduced carbon emissions during the previous five years by 25%. Walsh reported, Rio Tinto invested $1 billion on HIsmelt - a more environmentally-friendly way of producing steel – and Rio Tinto was continuing that work in the Netherlands and in China. As well, Rio Tinto spent $100 million on carbon sequestration projects.[14]

Walsh acknowledged Rio Tinto supported market based mechanisms to reduce carbon emissions. He said, “I think as you speak to leaders around the world on this issue, everybody is in agreement that you need to establish an international regime in terms of trading emissions.”[14]

Although Walsh viewed coal as an important ingredient for energy and power for the next 50 years, Walsh moved Rio Tinto out of Coal completely. He also viewed renewable sources of wind, solar, and tidal power as avenues that required focus.[14]

Economic growth

As a member of the B20, the business arm of the G20, Walsh regarded political stability worldwide as one of the issues the B20 team promoted. Political stability provided business with the certainty required to achieve the G20 finance managers target of increasing world GDP by two per cent for the following five years. Walsh also identified government infrastructure investment geared to trade, anti-corruption agreements, and tax reforms as important issues for economic growth.[14]




Chief executive




Vice president







Walsh lives in Perth with his wife Leanne. He has three children and four grandchildren.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Executive Profile,S. M. C. Walsh AO, Chief Executive Officer of Iron Ore, Chief Executive of Australia, Executive Director and Director of Rio Tinto Plc, Rio Tinto Ltd, Bloomberg Businessweek". Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Rio Tinto chief Albanese steps down". The Age'. Fairfax Media. 17 January 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  3. ^ a b "Rio Tinto chief Sam Walsh to retire after 25 years with mining company". ABC Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Sam Walsh AO Chief executive, Rio Tinto". Rio Tinto. 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d "Sam Walsh - the personal journey of a captain of industry, ABC 720, updated 31 July 2014". Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Rio chief dumped after $13 billion write-down, by Peter Ker, The Age, 17 January 2013" (Webpage). Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Sam Walsh" (Webpage). Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  8. ^ a b c "Rio Tinto's Sam Walsh scores $9m after pay increase in first year, by Cecilia Jamasmie, Mining.com, updated 14 March 2014" (Webpage). Retrieved 13 November 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Rio Tinto chief awarded honorary doctorate" (Webpage). Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  10. ^ a b "'Rio Tinto chief Sam Walsh to be replaced by Jean-Sébastien Jacques, The sydney Morning Herald Business News, updated 17 March 2016" (Webpage). Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Rio Tinto's Simandou email trail includes former CEOs Sam Walsh, Tom Albanese , The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 November 2016". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Alan Davies declares war as Rio Tinto's GuineaGate gets nasty , Australian Financial Review, 17 November 2016". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Rio Tinto fires two top executives over Guinea payments , Reuters, 17 November 2016". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  14. ^ a b c d e "'We need to be in step with' China and US reduction targets says Rio Tinto CEO, ABC 7.30 Report, updated 12 November 2014" (Webpage). Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  15. ^ "2014 Alumni of Distinction". The University of Melbourne. Retrieved 5 August 2014.
  16. ^ "Scouts WA". Retrieved 2020-09-16.