Barrick Gold Corp. said founder Peter Munk will retire after more than 30 years with the world’s biggest gold producer and it nominated four new directors after some investors criticized the independence of its board.
Munk, 86, will step down as chairman at the Toronto-based company’s next annual shareholders meeting, Barrick said today in a statement. Co-chairman John Thornton, a former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. president who Munk identified earlier in 2013 as his successor, will take over leadership of the board.
The independent directors nominated by Barrick are Ned Goodman, chief executive officer of Dundee Corp.; Nancy Lockhart, a former chief administrative officer of Frum Development Group; David Naylor, a former University of Toronto president; and Ernie Thrasher, founder of Xcoal Energy & Resources LLC.
The moves cap about 18 months of turmoil at Barrick, which fired its CEO last year following a disastrous copper acquisition, revealed ballooning costs at its biggest construction project and faced the largest gold-price slump in three decades, spurring $8.7 billion of writedowns. Barrick, now led by CEO Jamie Sokalsky, has responded by selling assets, firing workers and cutting its dividend.
Barrick said in September it was considering adding new independent directors and changing its executive pay policies after some investors criticized the company for awarding Thornton an $11.9 million signing bonus. Canada’s biggest pension funds wanted new independent board members and said the miner should consider replacing directors who had been there longer than 20 years and were close to Munk, two investors briefed on the matter said in September.
Howard Beck and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney won’t stand for re-election at the shareholders meeting, Barrick also said today. The proposed changes mean there will be 10 independent directors on Barrick’s 14-strong board, the company said.
Barrick also said it will propose a new executive compensation plan, and appointed James Gowans as chief operating officer.
Munk said in March it was “appropriate” that Barrick consider a path to new leadership at a board level. The company said in a November filing that Munk’s succession was one of several issues raised by investors that were being addressed by the board.