Biggest risk to the Barrick-Randgold merger? Thornton and Bristow’s clashing personalities – by Gabriel Friedman (Financial Post – September 28, 2018)

Both men are known for outsized personalities and are used to being in charge

This summer, Barrick Gold Corp.’s executive chairman John Thornton visited the Democratic Republic of Congo, spending a week in the destitute but resource-rich country, visiting mines and meeting with Mark Bristow, chief executive of Randgold Resources Ltd.

Now, the company is pointing to the trip as evidence that Thornton and Bristow — who would hold respective roles as executive chairman and CEO under a proposed merger — have thoroughly tested their working relationship.

Still, analysts and others in the sector have flagged the two executives’ dynamic together as one of the key risks of the merger, given that their stated plan is to work as equals and split leadership responsibilities: Bristow would manage mines, and Thornton would handle strategy.

Both men are known for outsized personalities and are used to being in charge. Bristow founded Randgold in 1995, and has been CEO ever since, earning a reputation, as he has put it in May as “a one-man show”; meanwhile, Thornton, who emphasizes his disciplined style, eliminated the chief executive position at Barrick and instead relied on a president — a role that has been empty since the summer.

“We assume that Mark Bristow has been assured of full operating autonomy from John Thornton, who will remain executive chairman, rather than chairman,” Citi analyst Alexander Hacking wrote in a note, under the subhead, ‘Buying a CEO.’

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