BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Succeeding a local legend

BRUCE WALLACE June 3 1985
BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Succeeding a local legend

BRUCE WALLACE June 3 1985

Succeeding a local legend

Last April Pierre Lortie, the powerful and popular head of the Montreal Exchange (ME), surprised the city's investment community when he accepted an offer to become chairman and chief executive officer of Provigo Inc., the giant Montreal-based food retailer and wholesale firm. Lortie’s sudden departure sparked a provincewide talent hunt for a successor. Last week the ME’S board chose one of its own to succeed the man who had spearheaded the dramatic resurgence of the exchange during his four-year tenure. On June 1 André Saumier, 51, the exchange’s vice-chairman and a senior vice-president at Richardson Greenshields of Canada Ltd., a leading investment firm, will take over as president of the 111-year-old institution. Said Jean Campeau, president of the Caisse de Dépôt et placement du Québec, a Montreal-based pension and investment firm: “Saumier is showing a lot of courage by following in Lortie’s footsteps.” Lortie leaves the ME with the reputation of being its savior. When he took over as president in 1981, the once powerful body was faced with a dwindling share of Canadian stock trades. Under Lortie the exchange computerized its operations, added several new services —including links with foreign counterparts—and started regaining its market share. Last year the ME captured 22 per cent of the combined value of the shares traded on the exchanges in Montreal and Toronto, compared with about 14 per cent in 1983. Saumier plans no major changes. As he told Maclean’s, “The train I am jumping aboard is moving at a fast pace already.”

The investment community regards Saumier as well equipped to handle the job. In 1967 he became one of the first francophones to be appointed to a highlevel civil service job in Ottawa when he became assistant deputy minister for rural development. After serving in key positions in the governments of both Robert Bourassa and René Lévesque from 1975 to 1979, Saumier entered the securities industry. Said Paul Guy, chairman of the Quebec Securities Commission: “Saumier’s experience means he won’t have to waste time learning the business.”

Indeed, the Quebec investment community has welcomed Saumier’s appointment. Said Michel Bélanger, chairman of the Montreal-based National Bank of Canada and ME president from 1973 to 1976: “Nobody will be able to match Lortie, but he will make the job his own.”

BRUCE WALLACE