Trevor Eyton is accustomed to the routine exercise of enormous financial power. As president and chief executive officer of Brascan Ltd., Eyton operates the $4.9-billion holding company that has interests in natural resources, financial services and consumer products. He is also right-hand man to the billionaire Bronfman brothers, Peter and Edgar, who—through their firm Edper Investments Ltd.—own a controlling share of Toronto-based Brascan. Eyton, 55, also sits on the board of directors of at least 24 corporations. His connections give him access to key members of the Canadian corporate elite, and in 1984 Eyton demonstrated just how powerful his influence can be. As political pressure for a domed stadium mounted in Toronto, Eyton casually remarked to then-Ontario Premier William Davis at a party that he would have no trouble raising $5 million each from as many as 10 partners to help finance the project. With that, Eyton set in motion the chain of events that led to the construction of the SkyDome.
By the time the site and plans for the
SkyDome were officially announced in January, 1985, Eyton had lined up 13 corporate investors. They included McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada Ltd. and Imasco Ltd., the Montrealbased firm that owns Imperial Tobacco, and they were all willing to pay $5 million in return for privileges that had not been determined. The agreements eventually included exclusive advertising privileges and a share of future stadium profits. Then, as costs began to increase, Eyton enlisted new firms until the number reached 28—for a total contribution of $140 million. Eyton told Maclean’s last week that the new stadium “really is far greater and grander than I ever imagined at the outset.” Eyton also lauded the partnership between the public and private sectors that made the dome possible.
Still, the way that funding was arranged for the SkyDome—so far costs approach $500 million—has sparked controversy. According to the SkyDome Partnership History, distributed by Dome Consortium Investments, the firm that represents the SkyDome’s corporate investors, Ontario and Metropolitan Toronto
each contributed $30 million to the project, compared with the corporate total of $140 million. Bank loans provided another $150 million, while the sale of boxes, stadium seats and a possible public share offering are expected to raise at least $80 million. But some critics say that Eyton should have thrown the process open to tender. Others say that the arrangements give the corporate partners unusual benefits at the expense of Ontario’s taxpayers.
Risks: For his part, Eyton said that the corporate investors took unusually high risks, and he rejected the tender option. He added: “I’ve seen many requests for tenders and I’ve never yet seen a request where it said, ‘I want a tender on a dream, no location, no facility, no tenants, no costs, no revenues, give it your best shot.’ That just doesn’t happen out in the real world.” As well, he said that he selected corporate partners who are leaders in their fields. Said Eyton: “It was a cold-blooded assessment 9 of who were the biggest and best in their § respective fields.”
s Eyton also rejected claims that offering potential partners 99 years of exclusive advertising and supply rights at the SkyDome was too generous. He said that the Stadium Corp. of Ontario Ltd., the Crown corporation formed to operate the stadium, can demand that the goods or services accepted equal or surpass the price, quality or service of anything comparable on the market. Declared Eyton: “If they’re that, the public isn’t harmed in any way.”
Partner: Born in 1934 in Quebec City, the son of an engineer and his wife, Eyton graduated from the University of Toronto law school in 1962. After joining the Toronto firm of Tory, Tory, DesLauriers & Binnington the same year, he became a partner within five years. Married to Barbara Jane Montgomery and with five children, Eyton counted among his clients Edgar and Peter Bronfman. In 1978, Eyton helped to engineer the Bronfmans’ takeover of Brascan, whose major asset was Brazilian Light and Power Ltd., an asset-rich Brazilian electrical utility, which he then patriated to Canada. In 1979, the Bronfmans named Eyton president of Brascan, which has since grown into a sprawling and wealthy conglomerate.
Clearly, not all the SkyDome consortium members will reap large profits from participation in the SkyDome. Arden Haynes, chairman and chief executive officer of Toronto-based Imperial Oil Ltd., said that he doubts his company will ever see much of a return on its $5million investment. Said Haynes: “We had to stretch a lot to make an economic justification.” He added that he thought it unfortunate that some of the commercial aspects of the partnership have clouded the initial purpose, which was to build something for the community. Still, Haynes was unreserved in his praise for Eyton’s role. Said Haynes: “Sure, somebody besides Trevor could have put the deal together. But he did it.” Clearly, a casual remark—from the right person—can help make dreams a reality.
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