Barrick Gold seeks successor to founder Munk, eyes co-chairman

TORONTO, March 26 Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:34pm EDT

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TORONTO, March 26 (Reuters) - Barrick Gold Corp, the world's largest gold miner, is seeking a successor to founder and Chairman Peter Munk, with his co-chairman being groomed as the prime candidate.

In a letter to shareholders in Barrick's 2012 annual report, released on Tuesday, Munk said it was time for the company to "consider a path to new leadership at our board level."

He listed the qualifications Barrick was looking for, and then singled out John Thornton, who was made co-chairman of the board in mid-2012.

"It is indeed our great fortune that he has reached a point in his spectacular career at the same time when our need for someone of his exceptional qualifications, credentials and experience also reached a decision point," he said.

Barrick, whose stock is at its lowest point since late 2008, faces mounting shareholder pressure to improve performance and provide a better return on investment.

The Toronto-based company last year announced massive cost overruns and a delay at its Pascua-Lama gold project in the Andes, and it booked a $3.8 billion writedown in the fourth quarter related to its 2011 takeover of Equinox Minerals.

In its search for a turnaround, Barrick fired Chief Executive Aaron Regent last June and replaced him with long-time Chief Financial Officer Jamie Sokalsky, who has promoted a regime of disciplined capital allocation and measured growth.

Munk, 85, gave no timeline on when he plans to retire and the company gave no further details on the succession plan.

Thornton, 59, is director of global leadership at Tsinghua University in Beijing and a former president of Goldman Sachs. He joined Barrick's international advisory board in 2011.

Shares of Barrick were down 1.25 percent at C$29.26 on Tuesday afternoon on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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