(This text first appeared in April)
It’s a unprecedented story about a unprecedented man who turned probably the most legendary entrepreneurs in Canadian historical past.
However at its core additionally it is a love story. It’s a story about Peter Munk’s life-long romance with Canada — the nation that welcomed him after he and 14 members of his household fled Hungary and the Nazi’s dying camps within the ultimate yr of the Second World Conflict.
Since then the long-lasting entrepreneur and founding father of gold mining big Barrick Gold has donated $300 million to establishments in Canada, primarily to healthcare and schooling in recent times, earlier than his dying on March 28, 2018, at age 90.
Final November, Munk and his spouse Melanie gave $100 million to the Toronto Basic Hospital’s Peter Munk Cardiac Centre — the most important present to a single Canadian hospital in historical past.
“We’re not speaking about charity, we’re not speaking a few present, we’re speaking about repaying a debt,” Munk stated on the time. “I’m right here to thanks … you guys who have been born right here, who take it as a right, won’t ever recognize the immense debt I’ve.”
Munk was 16 years previous when the Nazis marched into Budapest within the spring of 1944.
“The Munks have been an higher center class, well-to-do Jewish household,” Munk advised CBC’s Susan Ormiston in an interview in 2007. “Budapest was filled with Jews, very assimilated — the Austral-Hungarian Empire appreciated them.”
Beneath the command of SS lieutenant colonel Adolf Eichmann, the Germans started to spherical up Jews, forcing them into ghettos after which into cattle automobiles that might take them to Auschwitz, an extermination camp in Poland.
Earlier than the Germans surrendered to the Allies in Might 1945, that they had deported greater than 425,000 Hungarian Jews and murdered most of them.
The Munks and hundreds of others owe their lives to Rezso Kasztner, a Zionist lawyer and journalist who negotiated with Eichmann and one other SS officer, Kurt Andreas Becher, to save lots of as lots of his individuals as he might from the Nazi’s fuel chambers.
“I first heard of Rezso Kasztner in 1999 from Peter Munk,” writes Anna Porter, writer of Kasztner’s practice: The true story of Rezso Kasztner, unknown hero of the holocaust.
It was late within the warfare and there have been officers within the SS who have been ready to commerce Jewish lives for items, jewels and money — ideally Swiss francs.
Porter’s e-book chronicles how Kasztner stored 20,000 Hungarian Jews alive for a deposit of $100 a head (“Eichmann referred to as them ‘Kasztner’s Jews’ or ‘the Jews on ice,’” she writes). He additionally helped put together pretend id papers for numerous others, and arranged a practice that may take 1,684 Jews to a protected nation.
The Munks have been on that practice.
“We didn’t know the place the practice was going,” Olga Munk, Peter’s mother-in-law, informed Porter in an interview, including that that they had “no concept if we might be alive on the finish of the journey.
“However we have been completely sure we might not stay to see the top of the warfare if we stayed in Budapest.”
The practice’s passengers, Porter wrote, included “industrialists, intellectuals and Orthodox rabbis, Zionists and anti-Zionists, Polish and Slovak refugees from pogroms and focus camps, the oldest 85, the youngest a month previous. The rich Jews of Budapest paid a mean US$1,500 for every member of the family to be included. The poor paid nothing.”
The practice left Budapest on July 1, 1944, and arrived at Bergen-Belsen — one of many Nazi’s focus camps northeast of Hanover, Germany — on July 9, the place the passengers disembarked and stayed for weeks whereas Kasztner bargained for his or her freedom. From there, the practice took them in two teams to Switzerland. Munk’s group arrived on Aug. 21, the second group on Dec. 21.
After the struggle, Kasztner moved to Israel, the place he was accused by an Israeli trial decide in 1955 of collaborating with the Nazis. The decide declared Kasztner had “bought his soul to the satan.”
“Utter nonsense, utter nonsense, utter, complete nonsense,” Munk informed CBC. “He was a hero … in all probability the equal of a biblical hero.
“How do you thank somebody who saved your life, your father’s life and your grandfather’s life?”
Kasztner was assassinated in 1957. The three assailants have been convicted of homicide and sentenced to life imprisonment. Every week later, the Supreme Courtroom exonerated Kasztner in a four-to-one determination. They dominated, Porter stated, that he “had acted in what he believed to be in the perfect pursuits of all of the individuals, not solely these he had managed to save lots of.”
Munk arrived in Canada in early 1948. (His mom, Katharina — who was not on Kasztner’s practice — was deported to Auschwitz every week after Munk and his father’s household escaped from Budapest. She and Munk’s father had earlier undergone an “acrimonious” divorce, Munk advised CBC. He demanded to remain and shield his mom, he stated, however she and his father and grandfather insisted he depart. Katharina survived Auschwitz and Munk introduced her to Canada after the conflict. She dedicated suicide in 1988.)
Munk spoke no English when he ended up in Toronto on the age of 20.
In his speeches he typically talked concerning the gratitude he felt in the direction of the younger Canadians and their households he met whereas attending Lawrence Park Excessive Faculty and the College of Toronto (U of T), the place he studied electrical engineering.
“I used to be the one one not born right here, I used to be the one one who was Jewish, and the one one who couldn’t converse the language, and you realize what? They handled me like a brother — a brother in want,” Munk stated in his speech final November. “They have been there to simply accept me, assist me, embrace me, make me really feel at residence … from then on, in each step of my profession — which has been lengthy, boring, and filled with failures and successes — each step in my profession, I felt that big want to grow to be extra Canadian, to do extra for Canada.”
Like his paternal grandfather Gabriel, a businessman who had accrued wealth distributing a Viennese chocolate model referred to as Method, Munk had entrepreneurship in his blood.
After stints working for different individuals — choosing tobacco on a farm in southern Ontario whereas at college after which working at Toronto Hydro, CN Telegraph and Atlas Radio — he launched Peter Munk Associates in 1956, simply 4 years after he graduated from U of T.
The corporate constructed and put in high-quality sound methods. He then based Clairtone Sound Corp. in 1958 with enterprise associate David Gilmour. The corporate’s high-end stereos designed in modern Scandinavian-style cupboards turned massively profitable, endorsed by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Oscar Peterson, amongst others failed after Munk and Gilmour moved manufacturing to an enormous plant in Nova Scotia. Value overruns, an ill-timed transfer into color televisions and competitors from the Japanese sealed its destiny. Munk was turfed out of the corporate. In an interview years later with the New York Occasions, Munk described Clairtone as “the only most formative expertise in my life, as a result of it was so traumatic.”
“It was my old flame, my first infatuation with the romance of enterprise,” Munk advised Peter C. Newman in his 1998 guide Titans: How the brand new Canadian institution seized energy. “It was unrequited, it was immensely uncompleted, and perhaps that’s why it made such a serious impression on me. However it was an expertise that shaped the inspiration for the whole lot that I’ve completed in my life.”
Munk then threw himself into actual property, founding Southern Pacific Properties to develop a lodge and resort complicated in Fiji, and took the corporate public on the London and Hong Kong inventory exchanges.
In 1972 he acquired Travelodge, the most important lodge and resort chain in Australia and the South Pacific. He later renamed the corporate Southern Pacific Lodge Corp., and bought it to a consortium of personal buyers in 1981 for $100 million.
Different corporations Munk created included Horsham Corp., which he based within the late 1980s and listed on the TSX. Horsham later merged with Trizec Corp. to create Trizec-Hahn. Munk acquired Trizec from a gaggle of banks, and grew it into one of many largest house owners and operators of economic workplace properties in North America. In 2006, Trizec was bought to Brookfield Properties and the Blackstone Group for $9 billion.
Ian Delaney, who Munk recruited from Bay Road to be Horsham’s CEO in 1987, describes Munk as a “visionary who might see issues that his colleagues and companions couldn’t. He was really able to considering within the large-scale.
“Like all actual, elementary entrepreneur risk-taker, Peter made cash, Peter misplaced cash. Peter had companions, however they by no means ever felt that, win or lose, that they had been abused by their partnership,” Delaney says. “I can consider fairly a number of guys who couldn’t say that.”
Delaney additionally famous that Munk was a “realist, however all the time believed that onerous work and risk-taking would all the time stand him in good stead.” Munk was additionally “extraordinarily beneficiant together with his companions.”
“He was a pacesetter, and his individuals round him may get down, however Peter would keep the course, buck them up — he was fairly good, I’ve gotta say.”
Delaney remained a fan, even after Munk fired him.
“Nicely, in fact he fired me,” Delaney informed Newman in Titans. “He was the controlling shareholder, and I used to be the CEO, and I needed to have issues my method. Clearly incompatible … frankly, I might have fired me a yr and a half earlier than he did.”
In Newman’s view, Munk’s motives within the years after Clairtone blew up have been: “restitution, redemption, revenge — the three nice Rs in Peter Munk’s life. It’s about giving the finger to all these snotty guys who by no means waved goodbye as he snuck away for his 12-year exile within the South Pacific after the Clairtone fiasco in 1967.”
In 1980, Munk shaped Barrick Petroleum to spend money on oil and fuel exploration, however his timing was off, and he shifted his focus to gold after determining that European buyers needed a safer place to place their cash than within the gold mines of apartheid-era South Africa.
When the Economist requested Munk in 2014 why he moved to gold, he replied: “As a result of I’m a reasonably good enterprise individual. I like enterprise. And mining was to me an space that provided alternative.
“I knew nothing about mining … what I did know was how you can run a enterprise. The investor doesn’t give a rattling about what you already know about mining. They need outcomes.”
Rocco Marcello, who labored in funding banking and helped Munk with a few of his offers within the early years, describes his good friend as “sensible,” and a serial risk-taker.
“He had an amazing creativeness, he was a real visionary. If one thing didn’t work, he didn’t collapse his tent, he’d go on to the subsequent factor.”
The most important factor and his enduring legacy was Barrick Gold, which in its first yr of manufacturing produced 57,000 oz. gold. By 1992 it reached the 1 million oz. mark and final yr churned out 5.Three million ounces.
Munk set his new gold mining firm aside from different juniors by specializing in buying producing gold mines fairly than on exploration. His different methods have been to develop into a North American chief within the gold business, comply with conservative monetary insurance policies and decrease danger by hedging.
Barrick’s first acquisition was a half curiosity within the Renabie mine in northern Ontario. However it was the deal to purchase Camflo Mines — a mid-sized Canadian gold producer with a property in Quebec — that was actually pivotal to Barrick’s story.
Camflo’s most respected belongings have been individuals: Bob Smith, an engineer who would turn out to be Munk’s companion and Barrick’s president and chief working officer; Alan Hill, one other engineer; and geologist Brian Meikle. In contrast to Munk, they understood the mining enterprise, and offered essential experience that might assist form Barrick’s future.
“Smith constructed, led and impressed the technical staff that reworked Peter Munk’s imaginative and prescient into actuality,” The Northern Miner wrote after Smith’s demise in 1998. “It was one of many mining world’s most profitable and enduring partnerships.”
After Camflo, Barrick picked up the Mercur mine in Utah for 40 million. Inside one yr, Smith and his workforce doubled its reserves, and inside 18 months Mercur was value 5 occasions its sticker worth.
In 1986, Barrick purchased Goldstrike for $62 million. Goldstrike was a small heap-leach operation in Nevada producing 50,000 oz. gold a yr and had 600,000 oz. in reserves. However Smith and his staff stated there was extra gold to be discovered, regardless of the difficult geology and water desk.
On the time, many ridiculed Barrick for “overpaying” for Goldstrike, nevertheless it turned the steal of the century. Barrick discovered 50 million extra ounces of gold there and Goldstrike turned the most important gold producer on the earth, and the corporate’s flagship asset for a few years.
“There was some luck in how huge the deposit finally turned over three many years, however with luck, it’s typically what you do with it,” says Jamie Sokalsky, who labored with Munk for over 20 years, together with as Barrick’s president and CEO from 2012 to 2014.
The Goldstrike deposit, says Pierre Lassonde, chairman of Franco-Nevada, “turned out to be one of many biggest deposits of all time on the planet, and we have been a part of that journey — Barrick made Franco-Nevada and Seymour [Schulich] and myself. That’s actually what made us and made him.”
Lassonde remembers assembly Munk for the primary time after Barrick purchased Goldstrike as a result of he and Schulich held the royalty on the property and needed to ensure the contract was bulletproof.
“The royalty settlement wasn’t very clear so we determined that we’d higher meet with Peter and Bob Smith and see if we might hammer out the small print of the settlement so we wouldn’t discover ourselves in courtroom, or something like that,” Lassonde says.
“Peter already by that point had fairly a popularity, as a lot a women man as he was a promoter and a world-class particular person … I used to be nonetheless very younger, in my mid-30s, and I felt like I used to be assembly a character. He was already in his mid-50s and he was all the time dressed to the nines. I don’t know if he prided himself on it, however he was all the time dressed to kill.”
Extra importantly, nevertheless, Munk was decisive and didn’t draw out negotiations.
“He was very fast to know what we have been making an attempt to do and very useful, and admittedly, in a single assembly, we went by means of all of the factors we had on our agenda and we agreed on all the things and the way it might be settled and I assumed, ‘Wow, this man can decide! He doesn’t go to 20 committees, that is actually neat. We will actually do nice stuff with him.’”
Lassonde describes Munk as “one of many biggest promoters of all time.”
“It takes a promoter to acknowledge a promoter,” he says. “Promoters love to listen to an incredible story and Peter was top-of-the-line when it got here to listening to nice tales and appearing upon them.”
One of many offers that underscored Munk’s urge for food for danger was in Peru. On the idea of simply 9 drill holes, Barrick snapped up Arequipa Assets for $1.1 billion in 1996.
Barrick had expanded earlier to Chile and Argentina by way of its $1.Four-billion acquisition of Lac Minerals in 1994 (“the mining equal of an erstwhile bicycle-maker shopping for Chrysler,” the Economist editorialized in 1995). Shopping for Sutton Assets in 1999 additionally led to properties in Tanzania.
However its most audacious offers have been nonetheless to return.
In 2001, Barrick acquired Homestake Mining Co., the oldest listed gold mining firm in the USA. Homestake was Barrick’s introduction to Australia, the place its properties included a half stake within the nation’s largest gold mine, the Kalgoorlie tremendous pit.
In 2006, it accomplished a hostile takeover of Placer Dome for $10 billion, making Barrick the world’s largest gold firm. Placer had 12 mines and 4 tasks, and stretched Barrick’s footprint worldwide.
“He understood the worth, the profit and the upside of creating daring strikes,” says Sokalsky, now chairman at Probe Metals. “Not all the strikes the corporate made have been profitable, in fact, and buyers might not have agreed with every part that was finished, however Peter all the time needed what was in the perfect pursuits of the corporate, and that was paramount in his thoughts.”
Amongst Barrick’s much less profitable strikes have been the $7.Three-billion buy in 2011 of Equinox Minerals, which owned a big low-grade copper mine in Zambia, and spending years and lots of billions of dollars on making an attempt to maneuver the needle on the Pascua-Lama gold undertaking, which straddles the Chilean-Argentine border within the Andes.
Munk was fortunate too, when he misplaced a bid for management of Bre-X Minerals in 1997.
Whereas hedging was an innovation on the time in gold mining and proved an efficient technique within the early many years, setting Barrick aside from its rivals and serving to it pay for acquisitions that always took the business’s breath away, it additionally value the corporate dearly in later years.
“Within the 1990s they made some huge cash doing that — they made one thing like $6 billion,” Lassonde says. “However the place he received killed is that sadly, he didn’t anticipate the world of zero-interest charges. Who might anticipate that, to be very trustworthy? And when that got here round he ended up with the identical greenback legal responsibility as he had made up to now 10 years. He had to purchase again the hedge ebook for $6 billion, so on the finish of the day it was impartial. It simply goes to point out which you can be sensible for ten years after which one yr comes and you may’t anticipate what the world can do … and sadly, only a few of us might anticipate that.”
Munk additionally got here beneath assault for what many shareholders — together with main Canadian pension funds — stated was outrageous compensation for senior executives of the corporate, just like the $11.9 million signing bonus for John Thornton, who changed him as chairman.
Those that labored with Munk the longest converse of his dedication to the corporate and his hands-off administration fashion.
Invoice Birchill, an accountant and long-time pal and enterprise affiliate, joined up with Munk in 1970 as a result of he had finance expertise in land improvement tasks. He stayed with Munk from then on, properly into the Barrick years.
“He pushed himself, he was on the job mentally 24/7, that’s what entrepreneurs do, they sweat blood, they sweat all the things,” Birchill says. “However he would do this in formulating an opinion or a choice, after which he would spend a few days writing out a memo about why he was in favour of one thing, which might be in its tenth draft earlier than he felt it was ok to launch to the group.”
Munk additionally knew which elements of the group wanted him and which didn’t, and refused to micromanage.
“My job was to hustle the shares and I left the mining operation completely to miners,” Munk advised the Economist.
“It was a administration fashion executed by means of full belief,” Birchill says. “He trusted the individuals who have been delivering the knowledge and working the corporate and its mines. Peter’s presence all the time put the bar larger. He would say, ‘OK, you assume you are able to do this.’ As soon as he felt snug with the prospectivity of it, he thought, ‘Why not increase the bar and do this.’”
As well as, Munk by no means invested in something vital when he was the one investor, Birchill notes.
“He all the time needed to assume massive, which required the enterprise to be a public firm, and he needed individuals to share in that public firm — staff, outdoors buyers,” he explains. “He has been and all the time needed to have a platform of one thing that was going to be significant, and it was his job to ensure it was going to be significant. And that was actually his single-mindedness. It was his perception that this was our enterprise, we needed to carry out, we needed to do higher, all of us needed to act as house owners, and that it was shareholder’s cash — and everybody needed to pull collectively for the higher good.”
Marcello, who counselled Munk when he was transitioning from oil and fuel to gold mining, remembers that he “listened and took recommendation.”
“He understood his limitations and his strengths, and his strengths have been the power to have a imaginative and prescient after which when it comes to the operations he would flip them over to probably the most certified particular person,” Marcello says. “He was very sensible that method. The success of any nice entrepreneur is to know your strengths and perceive your weaknesses, and play in your strengths, and he was excellent at that.”
Others say it was exhausting to vary Munk’s thoughts.
“He had very robust opinions and also you didn’t transfer him too far off his convictions, that was troublesome to do,” Schulich says.
And like with most firm founders, you needed to deliver your “A recreation” into conferences with Munk.
“You all the time needed to be very ready and clearly know your stuff whenever you met with him,” Sokalsky recollects. “He wasn’t an enormous fan of lengthy shows. At administration or board conferences he was very sharp at assessing a presentation or a proposal and searching on the numbers. He might zero in on the primary points as he was all the time sharp and targeted on what was essential, and had the power to evaluate issues very nicely.”
Kelvin Dushnisky, who joined Barrick in 2002 and is now the corporate’s president, agrees.
“He put the Barrick model above every little thing,” he says. “Should you weren’t ready … he was affected person, however not if it in any method mirrored badly on Barrick … on the similar time he gave you an opportunity to enhance, and should you confirmed you have been ready to enhance then he had on a regular basis on the planet for you, when you have been ready to offer 100% for Barrick, and he was proper.
Along with the philanthropic donations to hospitals and healthcare and schooling, Munk was beneficiant together with his staff in any respect ranges of the corporate and favored to provide them pores and skin within the recreation.
“The senior individuals had probably the most influence on the choices of the corporate and would profit extra, nevertheless it was all the time a philosophy of sharing all through the corporate,” Sokalsky says. “Barrick additionally has a scholarship program that, from its earliest days, has funded the schooling for youngsters of all staff to attend post-secondary schooling, regardless of the place they have been.”
Certainly one of Munk’s final enterprises, on the age of 80, was to transform an previous shipyard and one-time Chilly Warfare period naval base in Montenegro right into a marina for yachts owned by the super-rich. “When Munk noticed Tivat, the harbour was a wasteland of scrap metallic and poisonous detritus, residence to 40 monumental Russian submarines and boats outfitted with missile launchers,” Toronto Life Journal reported in 2011. Munk bought Porto Montenegro final yr to Funding Corp. of Dubai for an undisclosed revenue.
“I take a look at each enterprise like snowboarding a really steep new hill,” Munk informed Newman in Titans. “The secret’s to look down, snicker and inform your self it’s identical to another hill. You employ the identical methods. The second you panic — the second you assume, ‘Oh God, that is damaged powder, there are rocks — you aren’t going to make it.”
It was throughout a ski journey in Gstaad, Switzerland, that Munk met Melanie, who turned his second spouse in 1973.
“Snowboarding is the one factor in life that I do properly, aside from enterprise,” Munk informed Newman. “I can nonetheless energy ski with any 25-year-old. I can get by way of any timber, can deal with something, so can Melanie. I do know I might have a serious accident, however life is filled with dangers. That’s the thrilling half. After a day on the slopes, I really feel elevated, youthful, sexually invigorated, bodily rejuvenated, intellectually able to deal with something.”
One in every of Munk’s favorite houses was his ski chalet in Klosters, Switzerland.
“I’m not certainly one of these guys with an excellent IQ,” he advised Newman. “I’m not a workaholic. I by no means miss 4 weeks snowboarding within the winter or going to my island in Georgian Bay in the summertime. I really like ladies. I really like good meals. I really like nice wine. I really like good pals. I’m so targeted, so consumed, so excited, about what I do. I really like my household, I really like my spouse.”
Munk’s social life was not often uninteresting, with a large circle of contacts from former prime minister Brian Mulroney and Conrad Black to Prince Charles and arms supplier Adnan Khashoggi.
“Peter had the deepest and greatest rolodex of anybody I’ve ever seen, and it was out there to us at any time — he would name whomever wanted to be referred to as,” Dushnisky says.
Dushnisky likes to inform the story of how coveted invites have been to Munk’s annual dinner on the closing night time of the World Financial Discussion board in Switzerland. “It was the who’s who of the financial discussion board … and a part of the rationale why the dinner was so sought-after was due to the robust gravitational pull he had over individuals, he attracted individuals, individuals needed to be round him.”
“He was a very good orator, he by no means used notes, and he could possibly be fairly spellbinding,” provides John Carrington, chief working officer at Barrick from 1996 to 2003. “And he anticipated that anybody who spoke on behalf of the corporate, just like the CEO or myself … would current nicely … it was an expectation that he had, you both introduced nicely otherwise you didn’t current.”
Within the latter many years of his life, Munk and Melanie spent extra of their time on philanthropy. They arrange the Peter Munk Charitable Basis in 1992, the Munk Centre for Worldwide Research at U of T in 1997, the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at Toronto Basic Hospital in 1997, and in 2008, launched the Munk Debates, a biannual collection in Toronto of debates on main coverage points. He additionally gave funds to Canada’s Fraser Institute and the Technion-Israel Institute of Know-how.
“Peter all the time stated that he was going to make certain his youngsters have been educated and launched in enterprise, however it was his intention to provide the majority of his wealth to Canada,” says former colleague Delaney. “And he has definitely been doing that.”
Munk stepped down as chairman of Barrick on the firm’s 2014 annual common assembly, aged 86.
He’s survived by Melanie; his youngsters, Anthony, Nina, Marc-David, Natalie and Cheyne; and his 14 grandchildren.
“Let me inform you this was a hell of a visit,” Munk stated in his speech after the $100-million donation to the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre.
“If you’re reaching ninety you’ll be able to permit the posh of leaning again a bit of and beginning to dream. My dream was all the time about making an attempt to repay Canada and to comprehend that dream … that is one of the best nation on the planet from each perspective.”
(By Trish Saywell.)
This text initially appeared in The Northern Miner.