Billionaire mining and energy magnate Lukas Lundin died in Geneva yesterday after a courageous 2 year brain cancer battle. Lundin was a larger than life entrepreneur and adventure seeker. He synthesized information about commodities and markets, built best-in-class management teams and created immense wealth for stakeholders through frontier exploration and development.
He wanted to be remembered as a company builder who was fun to work with. To say that Lukas was either was an understatement. “I have a fantastic life,” he said in a February interview. “…a nice family and it's just taking advantage of it as best I can and charge ahead. That's my advice to all people - do not think too much, just do it."
He earned a reputation as a fearless leader in the treacherous field of global resource development — especially in jurisdictions others were fleeing— and is known for sticking with projects for the long-term.
The Lundin Group had huge wins under Lukas’s leadership. Most recently, Lundin Petroleum was acquired for US $14 billion earlier this year, a 15,600% return for investors. Filo Mining rocketed more than 1000% after a copper gold discovery in Argentina at a property first staked by the Lundins nearly 30 years ago. The Group runs several other large mining and energy concerns.
I once was fortunate to accompany Lukas for a brief segment of his continuous global zig-zag. We travelled to the Lundin compound on Mustique Island in the Caribbean, named Villa Alumbrera, for the Bajo de la Alumbrera copper and gold mine in Argentina which was an early success for Lukas (sold for $500M in 1995).
In Mustique, I saw first hand the amazing energy of Lukas Lundin. Every morning, he was up before dawn, biking the island, swimming in the ocean, playing a game of tennis, and taking his guests on a big hike, all before lunchtime. His fitness level was staggering.
Lundin read a hard copy of the Financial Times, and fielded phone calls from his senior executives and close backers, a few of which I overheard. He kept saying “No-brainer” and “huge” and vacillated between keenly listening and laughing.
Conversation with Lukas was always lively — especially in the evenings. We debated bitcoin, which sounded like “Shpitcoin” in his Swedish accent. He said he’s sticking to gold.
I recall him wanting to focus on the big picture and make as few decisions as possible, such as what to have for dinner. Just make sure the chef knows what he’s doing.
Success in the resource business takes three things, Lukas told me. “First — risk taking. Second — you have to be a giant optimist. Third — you have to be willing to go out there and do it. It’s easy to sit on a couch and talk about it, but then you have to actually fly to some crazy place and pick up the concessions and develop them.”
His zest for adventure saw Lukas compete in the Paris-Dakar Rally four times. He travelled throughout Africa extensively on motorcycle. He climbed untold mountains on foot — often with brother Ian — and skied back down them in the snowy season.
Lundin enjoyed the accoutrements of his status, collecting rare art and commissioning the extraordinary megayacht, Savannah where the work and play continued. Yet he was equally comfortable in a sleeping bag to the five star hotels of New York City or Paris.
“Throughout all his success in business, Lukas never forgot the plight of those less fortunate," remembered Amed Khan, the American philanthropist focused on evacuating refugees from war zones. "We collaborated on numerous vital humanitarian projects over many years and during the last year he was literally responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Afghan and Ukrainian women and children. He will live on through them and I intend to redouble my efforts in his honor and memory," Khan said.
Lundin studied Petroleum Engineering at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology but confessed to being a lousy student. Lukas and brother Ian joined their father Adolf—who died in 2006— in the resource business as young men. During the uranium boom of 1978-1981, Lukas staked claims and did menial work such as line cutting alone in Northern Saskatchewan for his father.
“Here was this rich kid with a silver spoon in his mouth all by himself in the bush wondering where’s Mommy,” Lukas recalled in a 2013 conversation. No doubt it was tough work, but he claims the solitude was one of the most important experiences of his life. “The bush builds confidence,” he said.
The work ethic Lukas is famous for has been instilled in his four sons, Harry, Jack, Adam and Will. Harry is running a resource focused hedge fund while the other three hold senior positions with Lundin Group companies.
“His success has not come by accident or simply good luck,” recalled Brian Edgar, a lawyer, mining entrepreneur and Lundin associate. “He is extremely loyal to his people and this loyalty is reciprocated. His powers of observation are as good as anybody I’ve ever met. Lukas can walk through a room in one minute and write down two pages of notes about what’s going on in that room.”
Back in Mustique we were getting ready for a big hike when I asked Lundin if I could borrow a hat for protection from the hot sun. He handed me a plain one, and then reached for his own cap that read Drill, Baby, Drill. Lukas Lundin, the great optimist wildcatter then lead the way up the hill; his followers in tow.
He will be sorely missed and always remembered by a large and loyal group of family, friends and admirers around the world.