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(Photograph by Sean Sprague for Report on Business Magazine)
(Photograph by Sean Sprague for Report on Business Magazine)

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Goldcorp's big shoes Add to ...

For Jeannes, the challenge is not only living up to the dealmaking legends that came before him, but keeping investors interested in the Goldcorp story-no matter which direction the price of gold goes.

Jeannes was born and raised in Nevada, one of the richest gold-producing regions in the world, but it wasn't until he was getting ready to leave the state in his early 20s, headed for law school, that he first caught the bullion bug.

It was the late 1970s. As the price of gold started to soar, Jeannes's father, a long-time entrepreneur, started a small mine. From the moment he put on a hard hat, turned on the head lamp and travelled into the side of the mountain, the younger Jeannes was hooked.

Then, in January, 1980, gold hit a record $850 an ounce (about $2,000 adjusted for inflation). Suddenly, Jeannes found himself in the centre of a worldwide outbreak of gold fever. His childhood dream of Perry Mason-style adventures "catching bad guys" was quickly transformed into a career concerned with environmental assessments and project financing. When he graduated from law school three years later, albeit after watching gold plummet to the $300-to-$400 range and seeing his dad's business go belly up, Jeannes had become an expert in mining law. He practised the specialty for more than a decade back in his hometown of Reno, arranging financings and permits.

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But Jeannes grew tired of being the guy who came in at the end of every deal. Then, in 1995, gold miner Placer Dome Ltd. offered Jeannes a job as its in-house lawyer. Jeannes took the job, but on one condition: that he could move beyond legal work and into corporate development. That manoeuvre positioned him next to some of the titans of the industry who, over the next 15 years, would reshape the landscape through a series of mergers and acquisitions.

Jeannes worked at Placer Dome for four years, in San Francisco and later Vancouver, eventually becoming vice-president of its North American operations. In 1999, he joined Glamis Gold in Nevada, working his way up to the No. 2 spot as an executive vice-president. He played a key role in its acquisition of the Marlin mine in Guatemala and Mexico's El Sauzal mine and Peñasquito project, both of which are in Goldcorp's portfolio today. (Peñasquito is on track to become Goldcorp's flagship asset when it reaches full production early next year.) The sector's transformation began in earnest thanks to Wheaton River Minerals Ltd., a company created in 2001 by Telfer and mining financier Frank Giustra. In 2005, Telfer, then-CEO of Wheaton River, was trying to push through a friendly merger with McEwen's Goldcorp when Glamis CEO McArthur came along with a competing bid for Goldcorp. Beside McArthur was his right-hand man, Jeannes.

Wheaton River shareholders opted for Goldcorp, which left McArthur and Jeannes on the curb. But the dealmaking wasn't over yet. In late 2005, Barrick and Goldcorp unveiled intertwined deals that shook up the mining sector and brought Jeannes's career full circle. Barrick bought Placer Dome for $9.2-billion (U.S.) and sold some of Placer's Canadian assets to Goldcorp for $1.5-billion (U.S.). The deal would help increase Goldcorp's production by about 50 per cent to more than two million ounces annually.

The following year, Glamis and Goldcorp agreed to an $8.6-billion (U.S.) merger, creating what was then considered the world's No. 3 gold producer, with a combined market capitalization of more than $20-billion (U.S.). The deal also marked the start of a new relationship between Telfer and Jeannes.

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Things had become less harmonious between Telfer and McEwen, who had stepped down as Goldcorp's CEO after the Wheaton River deal. McEwen, who had remained Goldcorp's largest individual shareholder, opposed the Glamis-Goldcorp deal and tried unsuccessfully to get the court to force a shareholder vote.

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