BHP Billiton’s chairman-elect Ken MacKenzie’s top priority will be to meet as many shareholders as possible when he takes up the reins in September. 

The global mining giant on Friday said the former Amcor chief, who joined the miner’s board as a non-executive director last September, will take over as chairman when Jac Nasser retires on September 1. 

His appointment comes as activist hedge fund Elliott Management this week urged BHP to use the selection process to overhaul its corporate governance and oust longstanding board members. 

A BHP spokesman said the 53-year-old Mr MacKenzie, who spent 10 of his 23 years with global packaging giant Amcor as chief executive and managing director, regards getting out to meet the company’s more than 620,000 shareholders as his first order of business. 

Elliott on Friday lauded Mr MacKenzie’s selection as a constructive step in bringing much needed change to the direction of BHP. 

The investment house had earlier pleaded for BHP to “listen to shareholders” and conduct a re-examination of its business and its governance and then follow through with a “significant upgrade” in the company’s directors. 

“As a large investor in BHP, Elliott encourages Mr MacKenzie to use his leadership skills to address BHP’s poor capital allocation and underperformance, nominate diverse and qualified directors, and review the executive management team,” Elliott said in a statement on Friday. 

Mr MacKenzie was elected ahead of other internal contenders, including former Westpac chairman Lindsay Maxsted, who joined the BHP board in 2011. 

The incoming chairman says he wants to see the Anglo-Australian miner move on from its controversial multibillion-dollar acquisition of underperforming shale assets. 

“I am committed to the creation of long-term value for all of our shareholders and will work tirelessly with the board and management to achieve this,” Mr MacKenzie said in a statement.

Image: BHP Current Chairman Jac Nasser