Diamond divorce
Settlement involves one fifth of Dia Met

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 28/00) - The junior mining company that owns 29 per cent stake of the Ekati diamond mine, has a new majority shareholder.

Her name is Marlene Fipke.

As a result of a divorce settlement, Mrs. Fipke, wife of geologist Chuck Fipke, will control about 21 per cent of Kelowna-based Dia Met Minerals.

As of Thursday morning, the stake was worth $123.1 million.

Chuck Fipke, with geologist Stewart Blusson, was responsible for the discovery of the Ekati diamond mine at Lac de Gras, located 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.

Fipke founded Dia Met in 1983 and, as of Thursday, was still chairman of the company.

"The change in shareholding will not affect the running of the company," said Dia Met vice-president Gerald Prosalendis.

Prosalendis adds that Mrs. Fipke understands the Ekati project and has been involved with it for several years.

In the settlement, Mrs. Fipke gets 1.3 million Dia Met class A shares and 5.2 million class B shares.

Based on Thursday's trading prices, the stock is worth $123.1 million. Class A shares were up 90 cents at $17.50 Thursday morning while the class B shares traded down 40 cents at $19.30.

Upon completion of the share transfer, Mrs. Fipke will hold 1.3 million class A shares and 5.5 million class B shares (Mrs. Fipke previously owned some class B shares).

These blocks of shares, fully diluted, represent 12.7 per cent of the company class A stock and 24.8 per cent of the class B stock.

Mr. Fipke retains his 10 per cent ownership of the Ekati diamond mine joint venture, said BHP Diamonds spokesperson Graham Nicholls. As a joint-venture partner, Fipke is responsible for 10 per cent of the capital costs of the mine as well as one-tenth of interest and marketing costs.

"(The settlement) is a change in Dia Met that doesn't affect the joint-venture and the mine," Nicholls said.

It is not known if Mr. Fipke will step down as chairman of Dia Met's board of directors. But Mrs. Fipke, as the largest shareholder, will almost certainly join the board.

Dia Met president and CEO James Eccott said while the company recognizes the personal and painful nature of divorce settlements, Dia Met is pleased the distractions and uncertainties caused by the dispute have finally been put to rest.

"Dia Met will refocus its attentions on more aggressively pursuing various potential initiatives to strengthen and enhance shareholder value.

"Announcements in this regard can be expected over the next few months," he said.

The Dia Met share transfer resulting from the divorce settlement is expected to be competed soon and, according to Dia Met, Mrs. Fipke has indicated she has no present intention of disposing of the shares. There is speculation that Dia Met, and other Canadian diamond company shares, are currently undervalued.

Dia Met's class A and B shares have, in the past, hit $29 and $31, respectively.

Additional terms of what is likely one of the largest divorce settlements ever in Canada were not disclosed.