Barrick Gold executive chairman John Thornton

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PineBridge Investments, a fund manager with about $71bn under management, has appointed former Goldman Sachs banker and China expert John Thornton as its new chairman.

Mr Thornton – who was once in the running to head up Goldman Sachs but lost out to Lloyd Blankfein – will replace Lord Mervyn Davies, who is stepping down after four years on the board later this month.

The former Goldman Sachs investment banking heavyweight is currently chairman of Barrick Gold, a director at Ford and a co-chairman of the board of trustees at the Brookings Institution.

He is known for his strong Asian network, particularly in China, where he is a professor of global leadership at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Mr Thornton sits on the advisory boards of China’s Securities Regulatory Commission and its sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation.

Connecticut-born Mr Thornton was a high-flying banker at Goldman Sachs, leading its European growth in the 1980s and rising to become co-president along with John Thain at the time of the investment bank’s 1999 initial public offering.

But he fell behind during the bank’s later power struggles and left in 2003, branching out into his academic posts.

He joined HSBC’s board in 2008 and was seen as a potential chairman there, but lost out again to Douglas Flint in 2010 and left the bank.

At Barrick Gold, he succeeded founder Peter Munk, who said he had “searched the world for a successor” when he appointed Mr Thornton in 2013 with an $11.9m signing bonus.

But Mr Thornton has faced an uphill battle to turn round the Toronto-based miner, which has struggled with cost over-runs and writedowns.

He strengthened his authority there by eliminating the chief executive’s position in July, replacing then-CEO Jamie Sokalsky with two co-presidents.

Mr Thornton will take up his position at PineBridge on November 21.

New York-headquartered PineBridge runs $16.8bn in emerging markets strategies and has launched Chinese A-shares products through a joint venture with Huatai Securities.

Richard Li Tzar-Kai, PineBridge board member and chairman of Pacific Century Group, which owns most of the asset manager, said: “We are pleased to welcome John as our new chairman and look forward to drawing on his considerable international experience.”

Mr Davies, a UK government minister under the previous Labour government until 2010, is also a former chairman of Standard Chartered.

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