Business

The man who grows money trees

Roderick McQueen May 7 1979
Business

The man who grows money trees

Roderick McQueen May 7 1979

The man who grows money trees

Business

The two rival investment bankers were in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, when a shortage of hotel space forced them to share a room. It was a hot night, both climbed into bed without pyjamas and straggled off to sleep with the window open to catch any errant breeze. At 3 a.m. they both awakened with a heart-stopping jerk, covered in blood. The mosquitoes had attacked. “There we were,” recalls Bryson Farrill, vice-chairman of McLeod Young Weir Ltd., “two competitors, sleeping together, swatting mosquitoes together.” Farrill’s blood brother that night was C. E. (Ted) Medland, 50, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Wood Gundy Ltd., founded in 1905, now Canada’s largest investment house and the

one with the classiest, longest blueplate client list. This month he adds duties as chairman of the 12,000-member Investment Dealers Association of Canada, whose 80 firms will probably raise more than half the estimated $1.26 trillion to be spent on Canadian capital investment in the next 10 years. Wood Gundy president since 1972, chairman since last December following the September death of the founder’s son, Charles L. Gundy, Medland today rides herd on a staff of 1,189 in 24 Canadian cities, Tokyo, New York, London and Paris that trades stocks and bonds for 30,000 individual customers annually

and about 500 corporate clients. In a business where bringing lender and borrower together at the right price is paramount, Medland has few peers. Even when he plays poker, says former Ontario treasurer Darcy McKeough, “he plays to win, rather than just for fun.” Says an oil executive: “Whether it’s a $250-million preferred share deal or lining up a golf shot, he operates at the one high level all the time. And he beats you without running over you.”

Medland considers that comment, eyes dancing behind the gold-wirerimmed glasses without which he can’t see six inches. “I love to compete.” It’s a simple philosophy that’s been grasped with a boarding-school reach. Looking back on his eight formative years at St. Andrew’s in Aurora, Ontario, he says: “If you’re going to exist in that environment, you’ll get the rough edges knocked off, learning how not to go over people with a truck.” Competition, it turned out, could be profitable, too. He failed first year at University of Toronto by playing too much bridge, but he made enough money at it to put himself through, becoming a streetpounding Wood Gundy, messenger-apprentice in 1950 at $150 a month. Sales, trading and pricing experience in Toronto and Kitchener, Ont., led him to vice-president, operations, in 1969 under president William Wilder, now chief executive officer at Consumers’ Gas.

As relaxed as Wilder is intense, Medland has the respect of competitors and clients alike. A 1977 issue to raise $125 million for Inco Ltd. came after October mining layoffs in a market where the fixed 7.85-per-cent interest rate didn’t look appealing. “What had the makings of a very difficult issue,” says Inco Ltd. Treasurer Robert deGavre, “is now a success. Ted Medland was honchoing the effort and Wood Gundy never blinked.” The strength of the client list can cause strain, too. Last year, Medland attempted to act as midwife for Petro-Canada’s failed take-over of Husky Oil Ltd. Beaten when Alberta Gas Trunk Line’s Robert Blair bought Husky on the open market, Medland lost Husky’s business because of his Petrocan association. In the Brascan Ltd. offer for F. W. Woolworth Co. last 5 month, Medland had to bow out because § both companies are Wood Gundy f clients. “I don’t look upon it so much as I losing a client,” he said, “as having to S share a situation.”

Sharing is not something he does easily unless the client wants it. His firm and McLeod Young Weir are co-managers on a $300-million Ontario Hydro issue. “We might work on that together in the morning and be knocking one another’s brains out after lunch.” There’s only one flaw, one tiny thing people mention, with hesitation, about him. “His hair,” harrumphs one Bay Streeter, “is long for his position.” It’s all his second wife’s doing, laughs Medland, who told him when they married in 1973 that she didn’t like short hair. “I’ve tried to find a happy medium between what my wife wants and what the rest of the world expects.” Just another negotiated victory by the man who bleeds with his enemies and heeds his friends.

Roderick McQueen