Ian Telfer earned his reputation as a financially astute and visionary mining entrepreneur by building a series of companies through timely acquisitions and value-driven mergers. The companies that he founded or led — TVX Gold, Wheaton River (later merged with Goldcorp), Silver Wheaton, Terrane Minerals and Uranium One, among others — reached a combined market capitalization of more than $50 billion at their peak. Telfer’s greatest accomplishment began modestly in 2001, when he saw low gold prices as an opportunity to acquire Wheaton River Minerals and leverage its treasury to buy producing gold mines at bargain prices. The strategy was so successful that Wheaton River was soon able to execute a friendly merger with established miner Goldcorp. With Telfer at the helm, Goldcorp grew through subsequent mergers and acquisitions to become a world-class gold mining company.
Born in Oxford, England, Telfer was raised in Canada, and holds a BA from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the University of Ottawa. He worked as an accountant for Hudson’s Bay Mining and Smelting before becoming a founding partner of TVX in 1983. Telfer’s talents came to industry attention as TXV grew into a global gold-miner from an initial base in Brazil. A decade later, he took the helm of Vengold, which suffered along with its peers as gold prices fell below US$300 per ounce. By 2001, Telfer sensed a turnaround for gold and pursued Wheaton River Minerals, a junior company with a dormant mine and $20 million in its treasury.
This feat — achieved in a capital-constrained market — exemplifies Telfer’s tenacity and negotiating skills. His skills came to the fore again through the purchase of the Luisman mine in Mexico, for a price ten times Wheaton’s market value at the time. Other acquisitions followed, including a significant interest in the Alumbrera copper-gold mine in Argentina.
In 2005, Telfer garnered global attention for engineering a $2.4-billion friendly merger with Goldcorp, beating out a rival bid by Glamis Gold. With Telfer as CEO, Goldcorp then acquired Glamis Gold and the Canadian assets of Placer Dome, to become Canada’s second largest gold producer in terms of market capitalization. A few years later Goldcorp would become the world’s largest gold mining company in terms of market capitalization.
Telfer is renowned for his ability to raise large sums of money for small companies and for identifying wealth-creating opportunities. In recent years, he has helped create six successful companies, with three of these later acquired by larger entities.
Telfer has supported industry organizations, notably serving as chairman of the World Gold Council from 2010-2013. His many awards include AME BC’s Murray Pezim Award for perseverance and success in financing mineral exploration, and being named Ernst & Young’s 2007 Western Canada Entrepreneur of the year. He also has an extensive history of philanthropy. His $25-million endowment in 2007 to the University of Ottawa, which led to the creation of the Telfer School of Management, is considered the largest individual donation in Canadian history to a business school.