TORONTO—Barrick Gold Corp.’s visionary founder Peter Munk, a man of lofty global ambitions who fulfilled them like few others, died on March 28 at the age of 90.
He racked up an impressive series of accomplishments in everything from custom stereos to tropical resorts, and established himself as one of Canada’s great entrepreneurs.
Munk will always be most renowned, however, as the founder and builder of one of the world’s largest gold mining empires while at the helm of Barrick Gold. It was there where he most displayed his willingness to take risks, spot overlooked opportunities, and challenge the status quo.
He was born in Budapest in 1927 and fled Hungary with his family in 1944 when Nazi Germany invaded. He arrived in Toronto in 1948 at the age of 20 and undertook a number of entrepreneurial business activities before founding Barrick in 1983.
“This is a country that does not ask about your origins, but concerns itself with your destiny,” Munk said in 2011.
He is survived by Melanie, his wife of 45 years; five children, Anthony, Nina, Marc-David, Natalie, and Cheyne; and 14 grandchildren.
Munk, whose cause of death was not disclosed, leaves behind a legacy of business success, charitable donations, and an outspoken defender of the benefits of capitalism.
Toronto-based Barrick Gold grew into one of the world’s biggest gold producers under Munk’s leadership.
“When I joined Barrick in 2002, the company was in the news on an almost daily basis,” said Barrick President Kelvin Dushnisky.
“Words like innovative, entrepreneurial, instinctive, agile, and astute were used regularly to describe the company. They could just as easily have been talking about Peter Munk himself, and, in many ways they were. Barrick is, after all, an extension of Peter’s personality.”
Starting in 1983 with a small Ontario underground mine producing 3,000 ounces of gold a year, Munk set Barrick on a path of exponential growth.
The company’s biggest break came in 1986, when he bought an underperforming mine in Nevada called Goldstrike. Few saw the potential of the mine, then producing 40,000 ounces of gold a year, but Munk made a bet on it and struck it big.
Before long, the mine was producing over 2 million ounces a year and remains one of the company’s core mines, producing over a million ounces a year.
Not one satisfied to settle on a tidy profit, Munk would continue to buy mines and take over companies.
By 2006, Barrick would establish itself as the world’s biggest gold producer after gobbling up miner Placer Dome for US$10.4 billion.
“Someone has got to create and generate wealth,” Munk said at his last annual general meeting in 2014.
Munk had always been grateful for the opportunities that Canada, and his alma mater the University of Toronto had provided him.
With the significant wealth Munk generated from his exploits, he was able to donate many millions in charity through his Aurea charitable foundation.
He became one of Canada’s best-known philanthropists, including a $175 million donation to the Toronto General Hospital in 1997. Barrick said he donated nearly $300 million to causes and institutions over his lifetime.
A Toronto cardiac centre bears his name thanks to more than $65 million in donation, as does the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs after a $40 million pledge.