Aaron Regent is out as chief executive of Barrick Gold, and CFO Jamie Sokalsky has been appointed to the top job. The company cites its disappointing share performance as the main reason for the change, while sources tell BNN the move was a result of conflicting strategies on the miner’s future direction.
“We are fully committed to maximizing shareholder value, but have been disappointed with our share price performance. Our Board has every confidence in Jamie’s experience and commitment to take our company forward,” said Peter Munk, Barrick founder and chairman, in a statement.
But, a source close to the company tells BNN’s Howard Green that the real issue was corporate strategy. “This wasn’t around performance of the company, this was around the direction of the company,” the source, who asked not to be identified, said.
Recent moves — such as dividend hikes — to improve share performance have failed to significantly boost the share price.
The source says the discussion about firing Regent happened “pretty quickly” and came after a telephone board meeting on Tuesday night.
Regent was appointed CEO in January 2009 and led the company’s recent move into the copper market with $7.68-billion acquisition of Equinox Minerals. The purchase was widely criticized by shareholders over concerns that the world’s largest gold miner was losing its focus. Much of that criticism was directed at Regent.
At its annual meeting after the copper deal was announced, Munk defended Regent’s decision and assured investors that Barrick remains focused on gold.
“Categorically, and hear me loud and clear, this company has been built on creating the greatest gold company ever,” Munk said at the time. “Who is so idiotic to kill the goose that laid the golden egg?”
Regent espoused the fundamental value of copper in a recent interview with BNN.
“We’re very bullish on the copper price, we think the fundamentals are very strong and that’s evident when you look at today’s copper price — notwithstanding all the uncertainty in the world today, copper hung in there quite well and that tells you something,” Regent told BNN in February. “Our focus is on gold, that’s our anchor business, but copper will be a growing part of our production mix, but our base business is gold and given our size and scale it’s hard to get away from that.”
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