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Peter Munk, entrepreneur who founded Barrick, dies at 90



Peter Munk, the Canadian immigrant, Barrick Gold Corp. Founded in the early 1980s and transformed from a small operation into a global empire, has died. He was 90.

The company announced its death Wednesday in a statement. No Reason Was Given

Photographer: Scott Eells / Bloomberg

A serial entrepreneur, Munk's ventures ranged from high-end electronics to real estate. But as the founder of Toronto-based Barrick, the world's largest gold producer, he raised most of his fortune, the bulk of which he sent to charity after his death.

"He was probably a unique guy the most memorable guy I knew," said former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on Wednesday by phone. "He was a true leader, a visionary who built large corporations and then, at the height of his wealth and authority, distributed most of it."

Born on November 8, 1927 in Budapest, to Lajos Munk and Katharina Adler Munk fled from Nazi occupation in 1944 with his father's family. His mother, who left the marriage when Peter was four years old and had survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, committed suicide in 1988.

Odd Jobs

In 1948, Munch's father sent him from an internment camp in Switzerland to Canada to an uncle. In an interview said Peter Munk, he initially feared the move. "But I was determined to succeed," Munk said. "I probably had enough misguided self-confidence to think I could do it in Canada, even though I could not speak the language and had no contacts."

Munk would later describe his first years in Canada as a sort of love affair. After the deprivation in post-war Europe, there was plenty of food and friends welcomed him with open refrigerators in their homes, though he "did not speak the language here and did not know a dog". He worked in a number of odd jobs – the sale of Christmas trees, tobacco harvesting, grubbing – and graduated in 1952 from the University of Toronto with a degree in electrical engineering.

& # 39; Half Full & # 39;

Munk's account of his childhood and early years in Canada reflected optimism that has remained throughout his life, according to his daughter Nina Munk, a New York-based journalist. "For my father, the glass is always half full," she said in an interview in July 2017.

It was a quality that would be tested by the changes in fortune that characterize an entrepreneur's life. Nina was born in 1967 when Munk's first company was Clairtone Sound Corp. collapsed. Her father recalled that it was "the worst year of his life," according to her 2008 book on "The Art of Clairtone."

For nearly a decade, Clairton's Danish-inspired mid-century stereos were bought by celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Hugh Hefner, and jazz musician Oscar Peterson. But cost overruns, too early a push in color television and an unfortunate shift of operations to Nova Scotia contributed to steep losses in the late 1960s. Munk was thrown out of management in 1968 and later sued for insider trading. His first great achievement was also his most humiliating failure.

Alive Well

At the same time, his first marriage, Linda Gutterson, fell apart. In 1969 she moved to Switzerland with Nina and her older brother Anthony. Munk later told Nina that he had spent more on Anthony's school lesson than this year. Munk's lifestyle hardly changed over the years: Regardless of how he was, he always wore tailored Italian suits, monogrammed Charvet shirts, and Borsalino hats, Nina recalled, proud of the decadence of the mega Rich to avoid] "We have always lived well," said Nina. "For my father, businesses that went south, stock prices that collapsed, companies that went bankrupt, only blips were on the way to success, he never doubted he'd get everything back, and then a few, so why should one tighten one's belt? "

Munk moved to London in 1970, where he and his business partner David Gilmour launched their next project, developing a 7,000 acre resort in Fiji and 50 hotels in the Pacific Basin.

Gold Strike

The audacity of the venture following Clairtone's failure suggests that there was more than optimism in play. Canadian author Peter C. Newman wrote that there were three major motivators in Munk's life: reparation, salvation, and revenge. "It was about giving a finger to those snotty men from Upper Canada College and Harvard Business School who never waved when he left for his exile in the South Pacific after the Clairtone fiasco," says Newman's article [9] in Maclean, a Canadian publication.

In 1979, Munk returned to Canada, and in 1981 sold Southern Pacific Properties, selling off about $ 100 million. A year earlier, he founded Barrick Petroleum, an oil and gas exploration company, but soon switched to gold. The company was renamed Barrick Resources and listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1983. Three years later, Munk purchased a small Nevada gold mine called Goldstrike for $ 62 million. The company's geologists discovered new gold deposits at the site, which became one of the richest gold mines in the world.

Bre-X Hoax

Munk's other deals included which in 1994 accounted for 43 percent of Trizec Corp. The real estate developer sought protection from the creditors. In 2006, Brookfield Properties Corp. acquired and the buyout company Blackstone Group LP the company for $ 8.9 billion. In 2007 he bought a former Soviet naval base in Montenegro and turned it into a five-star resort and marina on the Adriatic.

Occasionally, his best offerings were those that escaped. In 1997, Barrick lost an offer to control Bre-X Minerals Ltd. and its Busand gold deposit in Indonesia. Bre-X rose to a market value of $ 6 billion ($ 4.6 billion) before bankruptcy after the huge reserves in Indonesia turned out to be a hoax.

Barrick grew unscathed during a ten-year surge in gold prices. with the acquisition of Placer Dome Inc. in 2006 becoming the world's largest producer for around $ 10 billion, including debt, a record in the industry

& # 39; The Biggest & # 39;

"The ultimate goal is to be the greatest," said Munk at a Bloomberg summit in May 2011. "Why should not it be? Why would you be half satisfied?"

The combination by Barrick with rival Newmont Mining Corp. would have achieved this goal; the last talks failed in 2014, when Munk resigned as Barrick's chairman at the age of 86 in the same year. Today, Barrick has only a slight lead over Newmont in terms of production, and the market capitalization of the latter is higher than Barrick's.

After retiring in 2014 at the age of 86, Munk handed John Thornton control and promised to stay in the company. "You may be able to take Munk out of Barrick, you can not take Barrick out of Munk," he said at an annual shareholder meeting.

A foundation founded with his second wife, Melanie Bosanquet, whom he married in 1973, serves a vehicle for much of his philanthropy. The donations from Munk itself include more than $ 175 million for the Peter Munk Cardiac Center and the University Health Network where it is housed. about $ 40 million for the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto; and $ 43 million to the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

Munk had five children: Anthony, Nina, Marc-David, Natalie and Cheyne. Linda Gutterson died in 2013.


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