Barrick Gold ousts CEO Sokalsky in major shakeup

Barrick Gold ousts CEO Sokalsky in major shakeup

Sokalsky took the top job at Barrick after the also sudden exit of Aaron Regent in June 2012.

In a surprise move Wednesday, Canada’s Barrick Gold (TSX, NYSE: ABX) unveiled a new executive management structure that will see its President and chief executive Jamie Sokalsky leave barely two years into the job and less than three months after a breakdown in merger talks with Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM), its largest rival.

Sokalsky will step down effective Sept. 15, said Barrick, and its position will be filled by senior executive vice-president Kelvin Dushnisky and executive vice-president Jim Gowans who will act as co-presidents, with overall responsibility for execution of the company’s strategic priorities and operating plans.

The world’s largest gold company said the new executive management structure would enable Barrick to meet the “distinct demands and challenges” of the mining industry in the 21st century.

Other planned changes include appointing chief financial officer Ammar Al-Joundi to the additional role of senior executive vice-president to work on the company’s strategic initiatives.

Some analysts and investors said the new structure will give chairman John Thornton, who took control in April as Barrick's sole chairman, more power.

"The fact that a CEO has not been named suggests that John Thornton, Chairman, will continue to be very active in the management of the company in a de facto CEO role," said TD Securities analyst Greg Barnes in a note to clients.

Under Sokalsky, who took the job after the also sudden exit of Aaron Regent, Barrick sold off less-profitable mines, cut operating costs and reduced debt.

Investors have punished the Canadian miner in recent years, as the gold price weakens, costs stay high and the firm recorded a series of write-downs for ambitions projects and takeovers during the commodity boom.

The stock was reacting positively to the news. It was up 1.47% to $20 in Toronto and 1.96% to $18.69 in New York at 10:08 am ET.