It's what Chuck Jeannes didn't do during his seven-year tenure as CEO of Goldcorp Inc. that has allowed him to leave the giant gold producer on his own terms. When Jeannes, 57, walks out of the company's headquarters in Vancouver in April, it will be with regret that the price of gold hasn't rebounded. But he is also relieved that he didn't make a disastrous bet on the kind of blockbuster acquisition that has cost many of his industry peers their jobs.
Why are you leaving now?
There are so many things that went into the decision, all personal. As much as I love Vancouver—and we've been here 11 years—it's not my home. Most of my friends and family—including my parents, my wife's parents, our kids, three grandkids and two more on the way—are back in Reno, Nevada. I joke that the only time my grandkids get to see me is on CNBC. There are times when you really want to be around. The other big reason is that I'm tired. It's a very intense, all-encompassing 24/7 job. Everybody's wired differently. Some people can do this for 10 or 15 years. I've read that the average Fortune 500 CEO lasts about 3.5 years. I figure I'm doing pretty well at seven.
When did you decide it was time to go?
Last May, I was getting ready to get on a plane to attend a large global mining conference that is held in Barcelona every two years. Instead of being excited about it, I thought, "God, I have to go to Barcelona again." If you can't have fun going to Barcelona, something's wrong.
You arrived in Vancouver during a bull market for gold and you're leaving in an industry downturn. Does that bother you?
I would certainly prefer to be leaving at a time when we were back in another bull market. We would all like to go out on a high note, but I'm comfortable that the company is very strong and sound, and prepared to weather this cycle.
A lot of other mining CEOs were pushed out of their jobs in recent years. How did you escape that fate?
I don't think it's an escape. It's because the company has done quite well. Of course, we've had some challenges. I think the reason that I'm still standing is that we didn't make any big strategic blunders. Like every company, we've struggled with the lower metal prices, but we haven't blown our brains out buying something we shouldn't have, or taken a big strategic bet on something that didn't pay off. We looked at everything the other guys looked at, and decided not to do that.
What was the best thing about your job?
The people. It sounds cliché, but it's true.
What was the most challenging?
Safety. Early in my tenure we had a series of fatalities and that became my number-one focus. Getting a call that someone has been killed is the worst part of the job, without anything else even being a close second. We've done so much better and improved our safety in every respect over the last several years. But we had a fatality the week before we announced my retirement. That was really not the way I wanted to end. No one should ever die working at this company. We still have work to do.
What will you do next?
I want to ski a lot more, and spend more time on my boat this summer. I'll stay engaged in the mining business and business generally. I'll probably get involved with a smaller company, or maybe a group of people trying to advance a company, but I'll probably stay in the background.
This interview has been condensed and edited.