| TORONTO, March 28
TORONTO, March 28 Barrick Gold's (ABX.TO) deep
pool of talent and track record of succession planning is
letting investors shrug off the surprise departure of Chief
Executive Greg Wilkins, as the company's founder, Peter Munk,
temporarily retakes the reigns.
But analysts said immediate growth plans may be put on hold
until it is clear what will come of Wilkins' leave of absence,
which the company said was due to "a serious medical
condition." They were not worried about the company.
"Barrick certainly has the horsepower to carry on, but
we're just hoping that Greg gets through whatever the issues
are," said Barry Allan, a mining analyst at Research Capital.
Shares of Barrick, the world's biggest gold producer, were
down 53 Canadian cents, or 1.15 percent, at C$45.62 -- in line
with a slide in its gold-sector peers amid a broader fall on
the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Wilkins, president and CEO since 2003, was to undergo
medical tests and prepare for treatment, Barrick spokesman
Vince Borg said.
Barrick did not detail Wilkins' condition and did not say
how long he may be away. Munk, who founded the company 25 years
ago, was set to conduct investor meetings in Europe next week.
"There are absolutely no changes in our strategy, approach
and focus on this year's objectives," Borg said.
Analysts who spoke off the record generally agreed, but
noted that Wilkins is very well regarded on the Street and has
overseen several acquisitions while CEO, including the purchase
of Canadian rival Placer Dome in 2006.
There was little agreement on a likely successor, if one is
"Barrick is very good with succession planning, and they
have a pretty good stable of talent to draw from," Allan said.
Chief Financial Officer Jamie Sokalsky, who took his post
in 2004, will join Munk in the European tour. The company's
other executive vice president is Peter Kinver, who began as
chief operating officer in 2003.
Wilkins, a chartered accountant, was named chairman of the
World Gold Council, an industry group, earlier this month.
(Editing by Janet Guttsman)