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Aaron Regent (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Aaron Regent (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

The Lunch

Aaron Regent: A new-generation CEO Add to ...

And despite the handful of acquisitions by its main rivals in recent months - including Goldcorp's $3.6-billion purchase of Andean Resources Ltd. and Kinross Gold Corp.'s $7.1-billion takeover of Red Back Mining Inc. - Mr. Regent insists Barrick hasn't been left out of the race for resources. "We don't feel like we missed anything, let's put it that way," Mr. Regent says.

He argues that the company, with a market capitalization of more than $50-billion and an industry-leading production target of nine million ounces within five years (up from an expected 7.7 million this year), can afford to be choosy. Besides, there will be plenty of other opportunities. No major gold asset comes for sale without Barrick knowing about it. "We seem to be everybody else's exit strategy, and whenever there's a transaction, our name comes up, which is understandable," Mr. Regent says.

The calm attitude he portrays comes from the confidence his chairman, the well-regarded Mr. Munk, has shown in his latest recruit. At the company's annual meeting last spring, Mr. Munk heralded his rising star CEO for his "courage" and his "enormous thinking, enormous conviction," at Barrick so far.

According to Mr. Regent, who was humbled by those remarks, the two have a close working relationship - yet Mr. Munk remains hands off on the day-to-day running of the business. Mr. Regent dismisses the suggestion that Mr. Munk still pulls the strings at the gold producer he founded nearly 30 years ago.

"Peter doesn't get involved in the operations," Mr. Regent says between bites of sweet potato wedges and salad. "Where he is interested is the strategy, corporate development side of things, which is great for us. He has a worldwide Rolodex."

While Mr. Regent may look to veteran mining executives for inspiration, he represents a new generation of CEOs in the industry who appear less flamboyant than their predecessors, but have savvy management skills.

He shuns traditional management textbooks, however. "There is nothing better than actually just doing, and accepting, that you are going to make mistakes," he says. "I often think things are usually pretty simple. If you distill it to its essence ... what are the issues you are trying to deal with?"

For Mr. Regent, the experience of "doing" comes largely from his time in executive roles at base metals miner Noranda Inc. and Falconbridge Inc., as well as his time before and after at Brookfield.

Two decades later, and after going back and forth between the mining industry and Brookfield, the married father of three daughters is one of Canada's youngest and highest-paid CEOs, running one of the country's largest companies. When he turns 45 next month, with another 20 years or more left in his career, Mr. Regent will have achieved more than some mining executives do in a lifetime.

Still, he appears to keep it in perspective. His humble roots may help, but there is also immense pressure on gold executives now, to keep their companies growing and attract the attention of investors who have more options than ever for getting exposure to gold, including the onslaught of bullion-backed exchange-traded funds.

Then there's the threat that gold's meteoric rise, which skeptics say is nothing more than the next financial bubble, will eventually pop.

Mr. Regent, like most gold company executives, believes there are strong fundamentals in place to back the rising price of gold. But it's his job to keep Barrick investors happy no matter which direction gold goes, and he knows it.

"At the end of the day I am here at the leisure of our shareholders," he says just before heading back upstairs to his office. "You never own the chair. You borrow it."

______

CURRICULUM VITAE

Early years

Born January, 1966, in Dublin, Ireland. Immigrated to Canada as a child.

His parents were entrepreneurs. His father was self-employed as a painter and wallpaperer, while his mother opened her own dance school for children, The Regent Academy of Irish Dance, which she still runs today.

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Follow on Twitter: @BrendaBouw

 
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