Put a monkey in there? I prefer you guys

A chairman's farewell addresses critical tasks of building value, creating jobs and recruiting leadership

Barrick (Gold Corp. was created and grew) without any government support. Yes, the government is behind us. Barrick never received a dollar subsidy, but Barrick did contribute $8 billion in pure direct taxes paid in its existence. Barrick also ... is employing today 25,000 people.

Jobs generation, wealth generation is intertwined. If you don't allow corporations to create wealth, if you don't allow entrepreneurs to exert themselves to the maximum of their ability and you don't give them ... the moral support, the physical support, the financial support, no country will be able to create the prosperity.

More and more people live on this earth. More and more people live longer, and the one thing they all need is an opportunity to improve their lives and they can only do that by jobs. And jobs will not be generated by the post office. Jobs will not be generated by more government ... and not by more (non-governmental organizations).

(Barrick) registered in the Toronto Stock Exchange in '83. (At) that time we were one of 11,500 penny stocks ... How many of them are here today? How many of them created 5,000 jobs? We created 25,000 (jobs) and that is not because of my brilliance. It's not because gold has gone up suddenly. For God's sake, you all know between "83 and "93 gold hadn't moved a buck. It was because of the commitment, the creativity, the spirit, the morality, the cohesion and above all the trust of those people toward each other.

There is no major human activity (like free enterprise) which depends on the combination of many people working together without the fundamental cement that's called trust ... That trust that creates and attracts the kind of people, the caliber of executives, the caliber of young people who are prepared to sacrifice family life, sacrifice income, sacrifice money, sacrifice almost everything just so they can achieve a common objective because they don't want to let their colleagues down. ...

... That kind of behavior, that kind of trust, that kind of mutual self-respect that creates a spirit in the company that moves corporations forward.

(The) wrong people, the wrong team can destroy the finest assets. And yet you can put five people together, 10 people together and give them the right direction, the leadership and they can create empires. That's the difference. It's all about people. It's not about the assets.

I am so very confident that Barrick's future is going to be as ... rewarding to shareholders as the first 20 or 30 years have been when I was fortunate to be chairman ... You don't take a penny stock company that started in "83 with a market capitalization of $140 million (when) 1% (was valued at) $1.4 million. Today, with a miserable, miserable huge (net earnings loss of $10.3 billion reported by Barrick for 2013) ... even today (that 1%) is still worth $220 million ...

When I looked around ... to replace myself ... We needed somebody who could be respected. We needed somebody who had the vision. We needed somebody who after all had the track record. We needed somebody who had the global credibility because when you are operating in Argentina and are investing billions in the Dominican Republic or Tanzania, or Papua, New Guinea or Australia or in Chile ... you do meet and negotiate with heads of government. We are now in 22 countries ... and inevitably we have to deal at the highest level. After all, you need all the support you can get and sometimes you can only get that by securing that ... kind of support at the top.

And believe me, no headhunter can be retained to find that kind of a person for you.

You can't run a company in a mining industry of any kind of scale unless you prepare to be global. ... Yes, I can find a chairman for Tim Horton's. You can find a chairman for a great book shop ... But for God's sake, this is a different job (and) qualifications. It's a different kind of persona. It's a different kind of international standing that a Barrick needs today to take it to the next plateau ... (B)etween Tim Horton's or Barrick ... the job description, the qualifications could not be more different (than) between a nuclear scientist and a guy who runs a Subway (sandwich shop). Both require enormous responsibility, tremendous knowledge, but they're different. It's easier to find guys who are trained to run a good Subway. It's very hard to find an Einstein.

I think I'll be saying goodbye to you soon ... I think time has come to hand over the (reins), which is good for everything ... I think I can hand it over to the best A team Barrick ever had, and I would not say that lightly ... I saw the proxy (voting) that came in after this annus horribilis, the worst year Barrick ever had — having written off $12 billion and the shareholders having lost 50% of their value — and I've seen the proxy approval of (Jamie C. Sokalsky, president and CEO) ... re-election (to the board) at 99%.

Anybody can shine ... a monkey would be a hero in the gold business when gold goes from 500 (dollars) to 1,000 (dollars). Put a monkey in there when gold goes from a 1,000 to 500 — I prefer you guys.

So let me just say that I shall remain very involved at Barrick. I don't think that my involvement in any way is a function of the paycheck I took home every Friday. Have you paid me last Friday? I don't think that my commitment or my emotional involvement was very much affected by my title or which size my office was ... that emotional involvement will remain until, I think until I die. So I can only say to you goodbye. You can take maybe Munk out of Barrick; you can't take Barrick out of Munk.

Excerpted from farewell remarks during Barrick Gold Corp.'s April 30 webcast annual meeting. Mr. Munk retired as chairman of the company he founded in 1983.

This article originally appeared in the July 7, 2014 print issue as, "Put a monkey in there? I prefer you guys".