John L Thornton

Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe
Patrice Motsepe
August 14, 2017
Beny Steinmetz
May 7, 2017

John L Thornton

  • Company: Goldman Sachs/Barrick Gold Corporation
  • Year of birth: 1954
  • Last known country of residence: United States/China

John L Thornton is the Director of the Global Leadership Program at Qinghua University in Beijing where he is also a Professor. He announced his retirement and resigned from his position as co-president of Goldman Sachs to create a leadership training program in China, though he remains an advisor to the board of Goldman Sachs as well as holding the position of Executive Chairman of Barrick Gold Corporation. He is widely known for the role he played in cementing the presence of Goldman Sachs in Asia. He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Brookings Institution, an American research group and think-tank Based in Washington D.C.


Thornton studied at Harvard University earning a Bachelor’s degree in history before continuing his education at Oxford University where he earned a BA/MA in Jurisprudence. He then continued on to Yale School of Management where he earned a MA in Public and Private Management.


In 1980 at the age of 26 Thornton started at Goldman Sachs and was made partner at the age of 34. He was responsible for the development of Goldman’s mergers and acquisitions business in Europe, and relocated to London in the mid-1980s. He was appointed as co-CEO of Goldman Sachs during the 1990s after which he served as Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asia for two years.

Managerial Achievement

Widely respected for his work as founder of the European mergers and acquisitions for Goldman, Thornton is also credited with being the leader who successfully expanded Goldman’s reach into Asia during the financial crisis in Asia. During his career, John L. Thornton served as board member of several public companies like, HSBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Intel, China Unicom and News Corporation. He currently serves as a member of the board at the Ford Motor Corporation, as Non-Executive Chairman of Pinebridge Investments and as executive Chairman of Barrick Gold Corporation. In 2007, Thornton was named as one of 40 people who have significantly shaped financial markets around the globe in the last forty years. He was recognized in 2017 for the work he does as Executive Chairman of Barrick Gold Corporation and his role in leading the restructuring of the gold mining company in Toronto and helping overcome debt and generate excellent profits for the previously beleaguered mining company.

Business in China

During Thornton’s tenure as Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asia, he developed an interest in Chinese business which helped steer the success of Goldman Sachs in China and across Asia. He was the main underwriter for several government owned companies in China. After his retirement he founded the Global Leadership Program at Qinghua University as well as the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. In 2008, he was awarded the Friendship Award of the People’s Republic of China, the country’s highest honour, awarded to non-Chinese people. In 2009, he was appointed as a member of the International Advisory Council of China Investment Corporation and he has been hailed by the Chinese government as of 15 foreign experts who have contributed to the development of China in the last 30 years.

Personal Life

Thornton divides his time between his homes in the United States and China where he resides with his wife Margaret Bradham Thornton. The couple has four children.