John L. Thornton

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John Lawson Thornton
Born (1954-01-02) January 2, 1954 (age 65)[1]
Alma materHarvard College (B.A.)
Oxford University (B.J., M.J.)
Yale University (M.A.)

John Lawson Thornton (born January 2, 1954) is a Professor and Director of the Global Leadership Program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.[2] He is also Executive Chairman of Barrick Gold Corporation[3] and Non-Executive Chairman of PineBridge Investments.[4] Thornton retired as President of Goldman Sachs in 2003.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Thornton is the son of John V. Thornton, a former vice chairman of the Consolidated Edison Company, and Edna Lawson Thornton, a lawyer.[6][7] He attended the Hotchkiss School, and would later serve as President of the school's Board of Trustees.[8]

Thornton received a bachelor's degree in history from Harvard College in 1976, a B.A/M.A. in jurisprudence from Oxford University in 1978, and an Master's degree in Public and Private Management (MPPM) from the Yale School of Management in 1980.[9] He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Bank Street College of Education in 2003.[10] Thornton was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007[11] and an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford University in 2009.[12]


Thornton joined Goldman Sachs in 1980 and became a partner at age 34.[13] In 1983, he founded and developed Goldman Sachs' European mergers and acquisitions business. He first began work in London in 1985, and served as co-CEO of Goldman Sachs International in London from 1995 to 1996. Thornton was Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asia from 1996 to 1998, where he expanded the firm's regional franchise during the Asian financial crisis. He announced his retirement from Goldman Sachs in 2003 to take up an academic position in China, although he would remain an adviser on issues related to China. According to the New York Times, Thornton's decision to retire "was prompted by a recognition that Mr. Paulson, who is 56, plans to remain Goldman's leader for at least three to five more years, delaying Mr. Thornton's expected promotion."[14]

Thornton has served on the boards of many large public companies including China Unicom, HSBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Intel and News Corporation. He is currently Executive Chairman of Barrick Gold Corporation,[15] a member of the board of Ford Motor Company[16] and also serves as Non-Executive Chairman of Pinebridge Investments.[17]

Thornton joined the board of directors for Ford Motor Company in 1996, during his tenure as co-president of Goldman Sachs.[18] William Clay Ford, Jr. – then CEO and chairman at Ford – had been friends with Thornton since their prep school days together at The Hotchkiss School. Their personal ties drew attention when William Clay Ford, Jr., received 400,000 shares in Goldman Sachs’s 1999 IPO, which was the largest individual award of that IPO by a large margin. Thornton served on Ford’s board from 1996 to 2002, during which time Goldman Sachs collected $90 million in investment banking fees. Thornton resigned from Ford Motor Company’s audit committee in May 2002, two months before Congress passed the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, which requires audit committee members to be independent.[19]

He is also Chairman of the Board of trustees of the Brookings Institution.

In 2007, Institutional Investor Magazine named John Thornton one of forty individuals who have had the greatest influence in shaping global financial markets over the past forty years.[20] He received the 2009 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Achievement Award,[21] which every year honors one past participant in collegiate tennis who has made unique contributions to society as well as achieving excellence in their careers.

Thornton appeared on the National Post's 2017 Power List of the most influential people shaping Canadian business. The newspaper noted Thornton has "overseen a massive overhaul at Toronto-based Barrick" following which the company "has shed billions of dollars of debt and generated excellent financial results."[22]

In May 2017, the government of Tanzania accused Acacia Mining, a subsidiary of Barrick Gold, of “underreporting its gold exports by a factor of ten”. The investigation revealed that copper and silver were also underreported, and sulfur, iron, iridium, titanium and zinc were present, but not accounted for. The Tanzanian government then imposed a ban on the export of gold and copper concentrates. The accusation and ban halved Acacia’s market value.[23] In October 2017, Thornton met with John Magufuli, then president of Tanzania, for six hours, emerging with a preliminary deal that included a $300 million payout from Acacia to the Tanzanian government, as well as the Tanzanian government taking a 16% stake in Acacia’s mines.[24] Thornton reportedly did not tell Acacia the terms of the settlement until after the deal was announced, even though Acacia, not Barrick, would be responsible for the payment.[25] Shortly after Thornton’s deal with Magufuli was announced, Acacia’s top executives – CEO Brad Gordon, CFO Andrew Wray and COO Mark Morcombe resigned.[26]

Interest in China[edit]

Thornton's interest in China stretches to the 1980s, where he helped build Goldman's presence in Asia. At the time of his retirement, Goldman had become the lead underwriter for major Chinese state-owned companies.[27]

In 2006, Thornton funded the establishment of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution.[28] In 2009, he also became a member of the International Advisory Council of the Chinese sovereign wealth fund China Investment Corporation.[29]

He supported the launch of the Schwarzman Scholarship in 2013, attending its launch at Tsinghua University,[30] and serving as an advisory board member.[31]

In 2008, he was awarded the Friendship Award of the People's Republic of China, the highest honor accorded to a non-Chinese citizen.[32] The Chinese government also named him as one of fifteen 'foreign experts' who have made the most significant contribution to China's development over the past three decades.[33]

In September 2017, Thornton helped arrange a meeting between Steve Bannon and Wang Quishan, Thornton’s friend and former head of the China Construction Bank and the current Vice President of the People’s Republic of China,[34] at the Communist Party’s Zhognanhai headquarters a few weeks after Bannon was forced out of his advisory role in President Donald Trump’s administration.[35]

Barrick and Randgold merger[edit]

On September 24, 2018, Barrick Gold announced plans to acquire London-listed Randgold Resources in a transformational deal valued at more than $6 billion.[36] The merger solidifies Barrick's position as the world's largest gold mining company, with proven and probable reserves of 78 million ounces of gold and dominant land positions in many of the world's major gold producing regions.[37] Thornton was the driving force behind the all-stock, nil-premium merger, which earned the support of more than 95% of the shareholders of both companies.[38] In the month following the announcement of the merger, shares of Barrick and Randgold rose by roughly 25%, reflecting widespread investor support for the deal.[39]

Personal life[edit]

Thornton is married to Margaret Bradham Thornton. They have four children.[40]

In July 2017, it was reported that Thornton and his wife, Margaret Bradham Thornton, were sued by their neighbor for having engaged in a “campaign of harassment and bullying“ that included barking dogs, calls to police, and “rude behavior“.[41]

In November 2018, an article in the Palm Beach Daily News published a story that the Thorntons were “colluding” with the Town of Palm Beach and “influencing the Town” by “contacting and pressuring the Town as part of a “campaign of harassment”. [42]


  1. ^ "NNDB Executive profile - John L. Thornton".
  2. ^ "School of Public Policy and Management,Tsinghua University". Retrieved 2016-02-20.
  3. ^ "Barrick Gold Corporation - Company - Management". Retrieved 2016-02-20.
  4. ^ "PineBridge Board of Directors - PineBridge Investments". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  5. ^ Gasparino, Charles; Craig, Susanne (March 25, 2003). "Goldman's John Thornton Quits, Clouding CEO Succession Picture". The Wall Street Journal.
  6. ^ "John V. Thornton, 81, Con Ed Executive, Is Dead". The New York Times. June 20, 2005.
  7. ^ "Miss Thornton to Wed Joseph Downing". The New York Times. September 6, 1987.
  8. ^ "Reduce, Reuse, Rehab: Monahan Building, the Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Connecticut". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  9. ^ "John Thornton to Succeed James A. Johnson as Chairman of the Brookings Board". June 11, 2003.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Academy Announces 2007 Class of Fellows" (PDF). April 30, 2007.
  12. ^ "Members and staff of St John's College Oxford". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  13. ^ Thomas Jr., Landon; Kahn, Joseph (March 25, 2003). "Co-President At Goldman Announces His Retirement". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Thomas Jr., Landon; Kahn, Joseph (March 24, 2003). "Heir Apparent to Goldman's Chief Decides to Retire Instead". The New York Times.
  15. ^ "Barrick Gold Corporation - About - Management". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  16. ^ "John L. Thornton - Ford Media Center". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  17. ^ "PineBridge Board of Directors - PineBridge Investments". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  18. ^ [“John Lawson Thornton”], “Bloomberg”
  19. ^ Landon Thomas Jr., “Ford and Goldman, So Cozy at the Top”, “The New York Times”, December 8, 2002
  20. ^ "The U.S.-China Policy Foundation". Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  21. ^ "John Lawson Thornton to Receive 2009 ITA Achievement Award". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  22. ^ "Twenty-five of the biggest, buzziest and most influential movers and shakers in Canada and beyond". Financial Post. October 31, 2016.
  23. ^ “Tanzania’s firebrand leader takes on its largest gold miner”, “The Economist”, June 15, 2017
  24. ^ “New Barrick set to end Tanzania tax dispute - CEO”, “Standard Digital”
  25. ^ Thomas Wilson and Omar Mohammed, “Barrick-Brokered Tanazania Pact Leaves Acacia in the Dark”, “Bloomberg”, October 20, 2017
  26. ^ Thomas Wilson and Omar Mohammed, “Barrick’s Trouble in Tanzania Deepens as Acacia Chiefs Depart”, “Bloomberg”, November 2, 2017
  27. ^ Thomas Jr., Landon; Kahn, Joseph (March 25, 2003). "Co-President At Goldman Announces His Retirement". The New York Times.
  28. ^ "About the John L. Thornton China Center". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  29. ^ "China Investment Corporation > Executive Committee". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  30. ^ ""Schwarzman Scholars at Tsinghua University" Launched". April 28, 2013.
  31. ^ "Schwarzman Scholars & Advisors". Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  32. ^ "Professor John L. Thornton Honored Friendship Award". October 13, 2008.
  33. ^ Yinan, Zhao (January 22, 2014). "Premier hails work of foreign experts". China Daily USA.
  34. ^ Rachelle Younglai, “The man with the key to China: Barrick Gold’s quest to open new doors” “The Globe and Mail”, December 6, 2013
  35. ^ Mark Landler, “In Beijing and Abu Dhabi, Signs of Bannon’s Continued Influence”, “The New York Times”, September 22, 2017
  36. ^ Hume, Neil; Sanderson, Henry (September 24, 2018). "Barrick Gold agrees $6bn deal to buy rival Randgold Resources". Financial Times.
  37. ^ "Barrick Gold-Randgold Merger: A New Gold Mammoth In The Making". Forbes. September 27, 2018.
  38. ^ McGee, Niall; Younglai, Rachelle (October 3, 2018). "From Palm Beach to Congo: How the Barrick-Randgold deal came together". The Globe & Mail.
  39. ^ Shabalala, Zandi; Taylor, Susan (October 31, 2018). "Barrick, Randgold sweeten dividend ahead of takeover deal vote". Reuters.
  40. ^ Dargan, Michele (October 26, 2014). "Charleston native turns to roots, not reality, for first novel". Palm Beach Daily News.
  41. ^
  42. ^ "Palm Beach Daily News". Retrieved 2018-12-15.