Barrick’s hiring of Mark Bristow sets up potential clash of strategic visions – by Eric Reguly (Globe and Mail – September 25, 2018)

Barrick Gold Corp. executive chairman John Thornton has been a great admirer of Randgold Resources Ltd. CEO Mark Bristow and has circled him for years. On Monday, the bromance triggered Barrick’s US$6-billion takeover of Randgold.

It was an effective – though expensive – way for Mr. Thornton to fill the vacant chief executive position at Barrick; Mr. Bristow is to become the head of the enlarged company. Now we know why Mr. Thornton was tempted to leave that position open for four years. As far as he was concerned, there was only one candidate for the job, and that candidate was Mr. Bristow.

It’s a safe bet to assume that both men see eye to eye on many levels. If they had not, the deal to create a gold-mining colossus with a market value of more than US$18-billion surely would have fizzled.

But how long can the mutual-admiration club remain intact? China could emerge as a sticking point. Mr. Thornton, a career sinologist who might have had a good shot at becoming U.S. ambassador to China had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election, is stuffing Barrick with Chinese investors and partners, and has issued them an open invitation to examine any Barrick project they think could benefit from Chinese technical know-how, cash and political connections.

Mr. Bristow is much more of a go-it-alone sort of guy, a builder who has financed and opened five mines in Africa and who likes to keep control of his projects. He might not want to give up half the show to Chinese resources companies.

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