Robert Friedland returned to the mining spotlight with a vengeance this week on news of IPO plans for Ivanplats, his private company with copper and zinc projects in the Congo and platinum and nickel projects in South Africa. Friedland showed his Midas touch with the discoveries of Voisey’s Bay nickel deposit in Canada, purchased by Vale, and the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia, now controlled by Rio Tinto.
As one money manager told Bloomberg, when it comes to finding and developing world-class mineral deposits, “I would never bet against him.”
Ivanplats is expected to raise about $300 million in the IPO, down from a planned $1 billion. Friedland’s plans are a bold gambit, even for him — the Democratic Republic of Congo seized copper assets from First Quantum Minerals and South Africa is in the grip of turmoil and clashes between miners and mining companies.
But the Ivanplats IPO was overshadowed this week by even bigger business news: Apple’s release of the much-hyped iPhone 5.
Steve Jobs died almost a year ago, on Oct. 5, 2011. But his legacy, marketing flair and genius for innovation live on in the iGadgets that continue to pad Apple’s bottom line, making it the world’s most valuable public company.
One business visionary expert at identifying valuable mineral deposits in far-flung locations and making them mines.
The other, a genius at identifying — even creating — future technological trends and products.
But before either of them became billionaire business tycoons, they were sandal-wearing, acid-dropping college students with a shared interest in Eastern spirituality. And Robert Friedland was a powerful influence on the young Steve Jobs, according to Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography (which is a fascinating read).
Friedland and Jobs met at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. After quitting another college and a brush with the law over LSD possession, Friedland had enrolled at Reed and promptly gotten himself elected student body president.
A charismatic and forceful personality, Friedland had the ability to bend people and situations to his will. He persuaded Jobs to take a pilgrimmage to India, which he did, and Jobs later joined his mentor at the All One commune, which Friedland ran on a property owned by an eccentric uncle. Jobs helped look after the commune’s apple orchard (get it, Apple?).
In Isaacson’s bio, early Apple engineer Daniel Kottke (employee No. 12) credits Friedland with inspiring Jobs’s legendary “reality distortion field” — which alternately infuriated and inspired the people who worked closely with the Apple co-founder.
According to Kottke, some of Jobs’s personality traits—including a few that lasted throughout his career—were borrowed from Friedland. “Friedland taught Steve the reality distortion field,” said Kottke. “He was charismatic and a bit of a con man and could bend situations to his very strong will. He was mercurial, sure of himself, a little dictatorial. Steve admired that, and he became more like that after spending time with Robert.”
That reality distortion field was also critical to Jobs’s single-minded focus and his success — at revamping the personal computer, designing the iPhone or making Pixar an animation powerhouse.
Jobs later soured on Friedland, describing him to Isaacson as a “literal and figurative gold miner.”
But the mining mogul undoubtedly helped the Apple co-founder become what he became.
Friedland is now a Singapore resident with a fortune estimated at $2.3 billion by Forbes.
I wonder if Robert Friedland thought of his old friend this week as their companies shared the global business limelight.
- 1996 Maclean’s profile on Friedland;
- The Big Score on Amazon.com; and
- Friedland’s March 2012 Mines and Money HK Presentation.
Source: World Of Mining