Barrick Gold at 20-Year Low Turns to Thornton – by Liezel Hill (Bloomberg.com – April 23, 2013)

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April 23 (Bloomberg) -– Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX) founder Peter Munk sees a successor in former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) President John Thornton as the world’s biggest gold miner tries to reverse a 54 percent plunge in market value in the past year.

“I searched the world for a successor,” Munk, the 85- year-old chairman of Barrick, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “I am delighted I found John. I am confident he will take Barrick to a new level as a global player.”

Thornton, 59, faces his first annual shareholders’ meeting tomorrow as co-chairman after the Toronto-based miner has struggled with cost overruns, writedowns, and opposition to his $11.9 million signing bonus from shareholders including Canada’s six largest pension fund managers.

Barrick, which also reports first-quarter earnings tomorrow, this month lost its position as the top gold miner by market value to Goldcorp Inc. (G), which produces fewer than half the ounces of the precious metal. It’s “appropriate” that the company considers a path to new leadership at a board level, Munk wrote in Barrick’s annual report filed March 25.

“My job was to develop the strategic vision, seek new opportunities, develop strong partnerships, build relationships with government leaders, and navigate some of the tough environments we work in,” Munk said in the e-mail yesterday. Thornton has those skills, he said.

M&A Department

Andy Lloyd, a Barrick spokesman, declined to comment on the timing of a potential succession when reached by phone yesterday. Thornton wasn’t available to comment, Lloyd said.

Thornton joined Goldman Sachs’s mergers and acquisitions department in 1979 and moved to London a few years later to lead the firm’s efforts to break the hold U.K. investment banks had on clients there, according to William Cohan’s book “Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World.” During his 23-year career at Goldman Sachs, Thornton spent 1996 to 1998 as chairman of the business in Asia.

Thornton and John Thain rose to become co-presidents of the firm under former Chief Executive Officer Henry “Hank” Paulson at the time of Goldman Sachs’s 1999 initial public offering and for a few years they were seen as the most likely successors. In 2003, when it became clear to Thornton that Paulson wanted to stay in the job for longer, and after then-Vice Chairman Lloyd C. Blankfein was named to join the firm’s board, Thornton left to be a professor at the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management.

‘Greatest Strength’

Thornton’s “greatest strength” is strategy, said Goldman Sachs Vice Chairman J. Michael Evans, who worked with him in London and New York.

“As co-chairman of Barrick I would have thought he would be bringing a pretty significant strategic dimension to the thinking around where should the company go, particularly in the gold business,” Evans said yesterday by phone.

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