|Gabriel gets help from Wall Street investor|
00:00 EDT Thursday, May 22, 2008
Beleaguered Gabriel Resources Ltd., whose massive gold project in Romania has been stalled by government and environmental opposition, has won the backing of renowned resource investor Thomas Kaplan, who has acquired more than 14 per cent of Gabriel's shares and been granted three seats on the company's board of directors.
Mr. Kaplan, a New York-based multimillionaire who is best known as the founder and former chairman of Apex Silver Mines Ltd., began buying Toronto-based Gabriel's stock in December, eventually amassing more than 35 million shares.
Last month, Mr. Kaplan met with Gabriel chief executive officer Alan Hill and chief financial officer Richard Young in New York.
"He's quite bullish on the project and wants to help us get this done," Mr. Young said. "We think it's quite positive. Mr. Kaplan can help us."
The entrepreneur controls a privately held mining exploration company named Electrum Ltd. and scored last year when another company he co-founded, Leor Energy, was sold to EnCana Corp. for $2.5-billion.
Amid fervent opposition from well-funded non-government organizations, the Romanian government halted Gabriel's permitting process last September, bringing the project to a screeching halt.
Through his Gabriel holdings in a company called Electrum Strategic Holdings LLC, Mr. Kaplan has been granted three board nominations.
Electrum is Gabriel's third largest shareholder. U.S. gold giant Newmont Mining Corp. holds 18 per cent of the stock, while hedge fund Paulson & Co. also owns 18 per cent. Newmont was also granted two Gabriel board seats.
"John Paulson knows Tom Kaplan and is quite supportive of Tom and Newmont," Mr. Young said.
Mr. Kaplan is also acquainted with George Soros, the billionaire who helped fund much of the opposition to Gabriel through the Soros Foundation Romania. Mr. Soros and his brother Paul were at one time major investors in Apex Silver.
"We are aware of Mr. Kaplan's historic relationship with the Soroses, both George and Paul. Mr. Kaplan indicated to us that he has not spoken to either George or Paul about Gabriel," Mr. Young said.
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