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Barrick Gold Corp. CEO and president Mark Bristow photographed in his Toronto office Feb. 12, 2020.Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Barrick Gold Corp. paid its chief executive officer Mark Bristow US$17.4-million last year, among the richest pay packets ever awarded by the Toronto-based gold company.

Mr. Bristow’s compensation included a salary of US$1.8-million, US$9-million in share awards and a bonus of US$5.4-million, according to a regulatory filing on Friday. Mr. Bristow receives the stock underlying the share awards over the next three to five years – some of it based on company performance – and it must be held until he leaves the company.

A geologist by training, Mr. Bristow joined the company last year after Barrick acquired Randgold Resources Ltd. a successful African-focused miner he founded and ran for more than two decades.

Since taking over as CEO, Mr. Bristow has made big changes at Barrick.

Almost right away, Mr. Bristow laid off reams of staff at its Toronto-head office. Under his direction, Barrick attempted a hostile takeover of Colorado-based Newmont Corp., the world’s biggest gold miner. While the gambit failed, Barrick later signed a joint-venture agreement with Newmont in Nevada that promises to significantly cut its cost base. Last year Mr. Bristow also helped to stabilize Barrick’s footing in Africa, with the settlement of a long-running tax dispute with the Tanzanian government related to its former subsidiary Acacia Mining PLC.

During 2019, Barrick’s shares rose by more than 30 per cent.

Barrick’s executive chairman, John Thornton, was paid US$5.5-million last year, a major decrease compared to the US$12.9-million he was paid in 2018. Mr. Thornton’s compensation included a US$2.5-million salary and US$2.5-million in long-term incentive pay, the majority of which must be put toward share purchases. That stock must then be held by Mr. Thornton until he leaves the company. The minimum holding period is three years.

Having both Mr. Thornton and Mr. Bristow on the payroll meant that Barrick’s pay for its five named executive officers was $39.44-million in 2019, nearly $11-million more than 2018 and easily the most in the past six years.

Earlier in the week, Barrick disclosed that Mr. Thornton recently sold US$50-million worth of stock in the company, due to “personal portfolio considerations.” Those shares, unlike the stock bought under the company’s long term incentive plan, is not subject to any holding restrictions.

Due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, Barrick this year will hold a virtual annual meeting on May 5 , where shareholders will have the opportunity to weigh in on the executive pay.

Barrick has lost a number of non-binding “say-on-pay" votes in the past. Shareholders at the 2013 meeting decried a US$11.9-million signing bonus paid to Mr. Thornton in 2012. Two years later, the company lost another say-on-pay vote, with shareholders taking issue with Mr. Thornton’s US$12.9-million package.

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