He's been described as America's New King Coal, dated Tiger Woods' ex-wife and made billions out of his company, Foresight Reserves.
Now Chris Cline, who ranks 78th among America's richest according to Forbes magazine, could be about to make his mark in Australia.
Cline was spotted on Monday touring the Moranbah North coal mine in Queensland, which has been placed up for sale by struggling miner Anglo American.
Anglo has placed its portfolio of Queensland coal mines on the block as part of a sweeping global asset sale program designed to help it turn its business around.
As revealed by Street Talk earlier this month, private equity giant Apollo Global Management is running its eye over the assets as part of a heavyweight consortium with Pennsylvania coal exporter Xcoal Energy & Resources, the largest exporter of coal in the United States and founded by coal legend Ernie Thrasher.
BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance has also signed a non-disclosure agreement to enter the second round for the auction of the coking coal assets. Mick Davis' X2 Resources is no longer involved in the sale process.
Cline, whose father and grandfather were both coal miners, is a big name in the North American coal sector.
He was formerly the majority owner Foresight Reserves, which is headquartered in St Louis, Missouri, until March 2015, when he sold a big chunk of his stake to fellow coal titan Bob Murray for $US1.4 billion.
Foresight shares have since plunged more than 80 per cent as large swaths of the North American coal sector have been plunged into bankruptcy, including Peabody. However, Cline is still bullish that his company, which is seen as having strong reserves and relatively young mines, can withstand the commodity crisis.
Exactly how he would afford the $1.5 billion-plus pricetag Anglo has on its Queensland assets is less clear. You would think he is likely to look to find partners to bid with – as Apollo has done with Xcoal.
However that plays out, Cline's reputation as an operator of underground longwall mines means his interest in Anglo's portfolio needs to be taken seriously.
One theory doing the rounds is that Cline could join forces with Apollo's bidding group, to form a three-pronged attack. Apollo would provide the funds, Xcoal could act as the coal marketer and Cline's outfit would offer the operational expertise.
Cline's commitment to the group could also help Australian and offshore banks, which will be asked to come to the deal in a big way should Apollo and co's interest proceed past the bid stage. Banks are right to be cautious, given private equity's lack of experience in the sector, while US sub-investment grade debt markets are hardly ripe for fuelling big leveraged buyouts.
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