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“Gold, sir—gold!”: Peter Munk 1927-2018

by Greg Klein | March 28, 2018

“He was the greatest gold miner of the modern age, a silvery, immaculate, dashing, and indefatigable tycoon with the menacing aplomb of a Florentine prince.” Matthew Hart’s 2013 description presaged the tributes that poured in after Peter Munk died in Toronto on March 28 at the age of 90.

Gold, sir-gold Peter Munk 1927-2018

Peter Munk 1927-2018

Saying “much nonsense has been written about Munk,” Hart profiled the celebrated miner in Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal. It was a bribe of cash and gold that bought 16-year-old Munk and his family out of wartime Hungary, but he didn’t return to the yellow metal until much later, and that followed a few spectacular business failures.

“We needed to find a business before it became popular, a business that was so unfashionable no one wanted to get into it,” said Munk. Such was the state of gold in 1983. Such was Munk’s eureka moment, which came not through a mineral discovery but a realization:

“Gold, sir,” Munk declared. “Gold! It carried the highest multiples. Gold shares sell at a very high value in relation to their earnings because a gold share is perceived to be not just a share but an option or a call on gold as well. If you buy Swatch watches, if you buy Nestlé, you buy the earnings. If you buy gold shares you buy it because, hey!— this company has 2 million ounces of gold and I think that gold will go up in five years!”

But the newly minted miner “had no patience for rummaging in the bush,” Hart continues. “Barrick’s strategy would be to buy reserves, not find them. Growth would mean rapid growth. Munk built his company like Lego, snapping gold mines into place after deciding what would fit. He bought some mines for their gold and others for their people.”

He did rather well, allowing him to donate nearly $300 million to good causes. He’s survived by his wife of 45 years, five children and 14 grandchildren.

Read some of the tributes to Peter Munk here and here.

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