Peter and Melanie Munk seated. From the $100 million donation event at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, (September 19, 2017) said to be the largest contribution to a Canadian hospital in history. In total, Peter and Melanie Munk have donated more than $285 million to charities and public institutions in Canada and abroad. (Barrick Photo)
Peter Munk died at the age of 90 surrounded by family in Toronto. He was an immigrant and a mining magnate who gave back to his adopted country and left an unparalleled legacy, Eric Reguly writes.
Peter Munk, a powerful man in a small frame, would claim he wasn’t afraid of death. It was frailty that terrified him; it meant that he could not play the game he had been playing all his life – building businesses, taking enormous risks, thundering like Lear when it all went wrong, then picking himself up, tilting his trademark Borsalino hat on his head and starting all over again, brimming with optimism.
Mr. Munk, the Hungarian-born entrepreneur who turned Barrick Gold into the world’s biggest gold miner, just couldn’t stop, even as his health began to fail. He was in his late 70s when he spotted a clapped-out Warsaw Pact naval base in tiny, corrupt Montenegro and turned it into Porto Montenegro, one of the Mediterranean’s biggest and most glamorous yacht marinas and resorts. It is now home to some of the yachts of the Saudi royal fleet.
At that age, he didn’t need the money or the aggravation. To him, there could be no such thing as retirement. He wanted to keep working, even if he had the wealth to spend his sunset years enjoying the yachts, the chalets and the private jets that went with his status as one of Canada’s best-known businessmen, patriots, Holocaust survivors and philanthropists.
“To the very end, he had a brain as sharp as can be,” said Ivan Glasenberg, CEO of Glencore, the world’s biggest commodities trader and a long-time friend of the Canadian mogul. “We all dream of the kind of energy he had at his age. His big fear was not being on top of everything, of becoming an old man who couldn’t do what he wanted to do.”
Mr. Munk died on Wednesday in Toronto, surrounded by his family. He was 90. The cause of death was not disclosed, but he had had several heart surgeries in recent years at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto General & Western Hospital. He had worn a pacemaker since he was in his mid-70s.
When he was struck by heart problems, Mr. Munk resisted slowing down. At the time, he was still chairman of Barrick, still skiing with his family in Klosters, Switzerland, where he had owned a chalet since 1972, and still boasting to friends about his virility.
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