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John Baird announces his resignation as he speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. Baird says he'll step down as an MP as of Monday. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
John Baird announces his resignation as he speaks in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. Baird says he'll step down as an MP as of Monday. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Barrick Gold hires John Baird, Newt Gingrich Add to ...

Barrick Gold Corp. has tapped former foreign affairs minister John Baird and former top U.S. lawmaker Newt Gingrich to serve on its advisory board, the company said in regulatory filings.

Mr. Baird and Mr. Gingrich, a former Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, will join other political heavyweights including former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney on the miner’s international advisory board.

The board meets once a year and gives advice to the world’s biggest gold producer, which has operations in the Americas, Africa and Australia.

“The role of the board is to provide advice on geopolitical and other strategic issues that affect our business,” a company spokesman said. “Both Mr. Baird and Mr. Gingrich bring with them excellent credentials and experience in this regard,” he said.

Mr. Mulroney chairs the board, which also includes former U.S. and German defense officials and a former prime minister of Spain.

No compensation details for Mr. Baird and Mr. Gingrich were disclosed in the filings. However, Mr. Mulroney, who stepped down as a Barrick director last year, received more than $1-million (Canadian) for his work as an adviser and board member, the filings said.

Mr. Baird and Mr. Gingrich join Barrick as the company repositions itself to deal with the prolonged slump in bullion prices.

Since Mr. Thornton took over as chairman last April, nearly every executive has been replaced, the board of directors has been overhauled and plans have been laid out to bring Barrick back to its roots, when it had a streamlined corporate structure and a healthy balance sheet.

Barrick increased Mr. Thornton’s pay to $12.9-million (U.S.) for 2014 compared with $9.5-million in the previous year, according to filings. Company co-president Kelvin Dushnisky earned $4.8-million. His counterpart, Jim Gowans, earned $7.3-million last year, including his signing bonus and other provisions. Kevin Thomson, a top m&a lawyer who joined Barrick in October as its executive in charge of strategic matters, earned $2.4-million, an amount that also included his signing bonus.

The higher compensation for Mr. Thornton comes after Barrick reported a narrower loss in 2014. Barrick, along with the rest of the gold industry, is under immense pressure to cut costs with gold down 30 per cent since 2011. The miner’s stock is trading around $14.20 (Canadian) a share, down 25 per cent since Mr. Thornton took the reins of the company.

Since that time, a number of Barrick veterans have left, including the miner’s CEO Jamie Sokalsky, chief financial officer Ammar al-Joundi, corporate development executive Rick McCreary and top lawyer Sybil Veenman.

Mr. Sokalsky, who stepped down as chief executive last year when Mr. Thornton eliminated the CEO position, received $8.1-million (U.S.), including severance pay. Mr. Al-Joundi got $2.6-million, which does not include severance. Mr. McCreary also received a severance package, but that was not disclosed.

Last year, the company started using a detailed scorecard to grade executives on goals such as free cash flow, return on invested capital and production. The new method was adopted after shareholder outrage over Mr. Thornton’s $11.9-million signing bonus prompted Barrick to overhaul its executive compensation arrangements.

Mr. Thornton, a former Goldman Sachs executive, recently told investors that Barrick’s focus would be on gold and killed previous plans to diversify further into copper and other commodities.

The former banker has tried to create more accountability at Barrick. Mr. Thornton and his new management team, along with Barrick founder Peter Munk, have all loaded up on the miner’s stock. He has promoted 35 of its top performing employees to partner, where they too will be required to hold stock and will be graded on the specific metrics.

The majority of Mr. Munk’s team has left or retired from Barrick. Though Mr. Munk and two of his longest serving directors, William Birchall and Mr. Mulroney, will continue to have ties to the gold miner for the time being.

The board has bestowed Mr. Munk with the chairman emeritus title, a role that will allow him to carry out some duties assigned by Mr. Thornton. Mr. Munk will be allowed to use an office in Barrick’s Toronto offices until the end of 2016. Mr. Munk received $833,333 for the four months he served as chairman last year. He did not receive a retirement bonus but did earn around $3-million from stock units that automatically vested when he retired.

Mr. Birchall, who was one of Barrick’s founding board members, will step down as vice-chairman at this year’s annual meeting of shareholders and then retire as director in 2016.

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