Barrick Gold Corp. boosted Executive Chairman John Thornton’s total compensation last year 67 per cent to $12.9 million, rewarding the former investment banker for the company’s performance and his role in the merger with Randgold Resources Ltd.
Thornton received a $9.74 million bonus on top of his $2.5 million salary, according to a regulatory filing 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 $7.7 million in total pay.
The package was partly based on Thornton’s work overseeing the $5.4 billion 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 Inc. 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 chief executive officer in January following its acquisition of Randgold, also is known for a relentless focus on costs.
Large investors have become increasingly critical of hefty executive pay at gold miners in light of lackluster 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. Barrick’s Randgold deal was followed last month by a sweeping joint venture with Colorado-based Newmont Mining Corp. in Nevada. Barrick has said the latter will yield $4.7 billion in synergies.
Barrick was criticized in 2013 for awarding Thornton $17 million in total compensation a year earlier, including a $11.9 million 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 Inc. has come under fire from some of its shareholders for committing to million-dollar payouts to CEO David Garofalo and Chairman Ian Telfer should its sale to Newmont be completed. The Shareholders’ Gold Council has criticized the planned payouts, and one of Newmont’s largest shareholders last month echoed Paulson & Co.’s concerns.