John Thornton. Picture: BLOOMBERG/DAVID PAUL MORRIS
John Thornton. Picture: BLOOMBERG/DAVID PAUL MORRIS

New York  — Barrick Gold boosted executive chair John Thornton’s total compensation for 2018 by 67% to $12.9m, rewarding the former investment banker for the company’s performance and his role in the merger with Randgold Resources.

Thornton received a $9.74m bonus on top of his $2.5m salary, according to a regulatory filing on Friday. He used most of the after-tax proceeds of the bonus to buy 215,000 Barrick shares, the filing said. He also got about $625,000 of pension contributions and perks, including insurance premiums. In 2017, Thornton got $7.7million in total pay.

The package was partly based on Thornton’s work overseeing the $5.4bn tie-up with Randgold, the filing said. The shares he purchased with his bonus must be held until he retires or leaves the company.

The former president of Goldman Sachs Group  has long been among the most vocal critics of irresponsible spending practices by gold miners, frequently saying the industry is in dire need of an overhaul.

While Thornton has overseen years of budget-slashing measures to pay down the miner’s debt, Mark Bristow, named Barrick’s CEO in January following its acquisition of Randgold, also is known for a relentless focus on costs.

Investor demands

Large investors have become increasingly critical of hefty executive pay at gold miners in light of lacklustre stock performance in recent years. An investor coalition spearheaded by billionaire John Paulson, the Shareholders’ Gold Council, has said executives should own more stock in their companies.

Thornton and Bristow each own more than 5-million Barrick shares, according to the filing. The two have cheered the tie-up of their two firms as a path to efficiencies and further cost-cuts to make lower-grade ore become profitable.

The Pueblo Viejo gold mine in the Dominican Republic, in which Barrick Gold owns 60%. Picture: REUTERS/RICARDO ROJAS
The Pueblo Viejo gold mine in the Dominican Republic, in which Barrick Gold owns 60%. Picture: REUTERS/RICARDO ROJAS

Barrick’s Randgold deal was followed in March by a sweeping joint venture with Colorado-based Newmont Mining  in Nevada. Barrick has said the latter will yield $4.7bn in synergies.

Barrick was criticised in 2013 for awarding Thornton $17m in total compensation a year earlier, including a $11.9m signing bonus at a time when the miner’s debt was peaking. Thornton responded to pay concerns in 2015 by giving up his bonus.

Barrick rival Goldcorp  has come under fire from some of its shareholders for committing to million-dollar payouts to CEO David Garofalo and chair Ian Telfer should its sale to Newmont be completed. The Shareholders’ Gold Council has criticised the planned payouts, and one of Newmont’s largest shareholders last month echoed Paulson & Co’s concerns.

Bloomberg