Home > News > Innovative and Enterprising...

Innovative and Enterprising Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk dead at 90

By Frank Giorno

Mar 29, 2018

Peter Munk the man who built Barrick Gold into the largest mining company in the world after immigrating to Canada from post World War 2 Hungary died at his Toronto home, peacefully, surrounded by his family at age 90.

It is with deep sadness that Barrick Gold Corporation (NYSE: ABX) (TSX: ABX) announces the passing of the Company’s Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Peter Munk. Munk passed away peacefully in Toronto on Thursday March 28, surrounded by his family. He was 90.,” said a company issued news release.

Munk, was born in Budapest in 1927. In 1944, when the Nazis invaded Hungary, Munk who was 16 at the time along with 14 members of his family escaped on the Kastner train. The train carried 1,684 Jews to safety in Switzerland, was arranged by Rudolf Kastner of the Zionist Aid and Rescue Committee because of secret negotiations with Adolf Eichmann. The high-ranking Nazi allowed some Jews to leave in exchange for money, gold, and diamonds, part of a series of so-called "blood for goods" deals.

Munk arrived in Canada in 1948 via Switzerland, initially on a student visa, and graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in electrical engineering in 1952.

 “This is a country that does not ask about your origins, but concerns itself with your destiny,” Munk was fond of saying.

Before getting involved in gold mining, Barrick was involved in several high-profile business ventures, including furniture and electronics company Clairtone, real estate company Trizec Properties.

Munk originally aspired to enter the petroleum industry and formed Barrick Petroleum, but a volatile industry led him to realized that investments in this sector would be a disaster. Munk acquired a small mining company, Camflo Mines and he left the oil sector and became a success.

Munk founded Barrick Gold in 1983 at age 56 a rather advanced age for entry into the field. But buoyed by the success of his previous ventures, Munk and built Barrick Gold into the world’s largest gold mining company in less than twenty-five years.

The first big gamble that Barrick Gold undertook was in 1986 when Munk bought an underperforming mine in Nevada called Goldstrike, which was producing 40,000 ounces of gold per year at the time. Munk saw its potential invested in the mine and succeeded big. Goldstrike went on to produce 42 million ounces of gold for the company and continues to produce more than one million every year.

In 2006, Barrick officially became the world's largest gold miner after a $10 billion acquisition of rival Placer Dome.

Munk was different from the previous generation of miners and mining companies by using is financial acumen to succeed and not geology or mining engineering.

 Barrick's successes over the years has come from its gold hedging strategy, which made the company able to weather the boom and bust cyclicals of the industry gold prices by ensuring a continuous flow of revenue even in lean years.

In later years, Munk was beset with a series of missteps that eventually lead to his resignation from the company he built and nourished for 30 years.

Peter Munk takes the blame for mistakes of past 2 years

Munk donated nearly $300 million to causes and institutions that he supported along with Melanie his wife. One of the projects he passionately supported was the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the Toronto General Hospital founded in 1997. Munk donated more than $175 million to the institution, including a $100 million contribution in 2017 that remains the largest single gift ever made to a Canadian hospital.

Munk was for ever grateful to the University of Toronto and he donated $47 million to create the Munk School of Global Affairs, Canada’s pre-eminent degree-granting institution for the research and study of global affairs. In 2008, he founded The Munk Debates, which quickly became Canada’s most important public policy debate series, bringing the world’s brightest minds together to debate the biggest issues of our time.

 Munk received numerous awards and honors, for his leadership as an entrepreneur and philanthropist including honorary doctorates from the University of Toronto, Concordia University, Bishop’s University, and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. In 2008, he was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honor, limited to no more than 165 living Canadians at any one time.

Munk is survived by Melanie, his wife of forty-five years; by his five children, Anthony, Nina, Marc-David, Natalie, and Cheyne; and by his fourteen grandchildren.

Please visit www.barrick.com/peter-munk for more about the life of Peter Munk.