BUSINESS

Privatizing G-7

Corporations are tapped for G-7 funding

ANDREW WILLIS May 8 1995
BUSINESS

Privatizing G-7

Corporations are tapped for G-7 funding

ANDREW WILLIS May 8 1995

Privatizing G-7

BUSINESS

Corporations are tapped for G-7 funding

It is always hard to resist a personal request from the Prime Minister of Canada. Even two of the country’s busiest executives were willing to adjust their schedules when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien telephoned them in early March looking for a few good fund-raisers to quickly pull together $7 million in corporate sponsorships for the summit of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations in Halifax on June 15 to 17. As a result of Chretien’s call, Maclean’s has learned, Purdy Crawford, chairman of Montreal-based Imasco Ltd., and Ivan Duvar, chairman of Maritime Telegraph and Telephone Co. Ltd. of Halifax., are now deploying their considerable persuasive skills to wring contributions of up to $500,000 each from the ranks of their fellow industrialists. In return for the cash outlays, some of Canada’s largest corporations will get to place their corporate stamp—and logo—on events at the summit. To bring that about,

Crawford and Duvar are making a sales pitch that has attracted some high-profile support—as well as some low-level grumbling about the partial privatization of the G-7.

Crawford and Duvar have confronted some imposing hurdles. For one thing, some of the institutions approached say privately that it is inappropriate for a bank or financial institution to be sponsoring events associated with an international meeting whose decisions can have on impact on their business. As well, many Canadian companies, while largely restored to profitability after the recession, are still watching their slimmer wallets. “Occasionally, the initial reaction to our approach is ‘Let the government pay,’ ” Duvar admits.

A third obstacle is unease in Central and Western Canada about promoting a distinctly down-east show. Complains one Torontobased executive: “This event is really a tribute to the greater glory of Halifax; the rest of Canada is an afterthought.” For her part, Jodi White, vice-president of corporate affairs for Imasco and a staff member of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, acknowledges that this is a common complaint. Companies in Western Canada have been especially slow to sign on, she says, even though the summit offers a chance to impress their Japanese clients. But White insists, “This is a terrific

opportunity to highlight Canadian skills.” The fund-raising efforts certainly have highlighted the organizational skills of Crawford and Duvar. After signing up their own companies, the two executives then created a club, in this case an eight-member advisory committee that includes top executives at Air Canada, Royal Bank of Canada, General Motors of Canada Ltd., Northern Telecom Ltd., and McCain Foods Ltd. The blue-chip partners have committed to contribute cash or products, and their executives are also working the telephones, appealing to other senior managers at Canada’s 100 largest companies.

So far, Canada’s banks, which posted record profits last year, are feeling the most pressure to participate in summit contributions. “All Canada’s major financial institutions are being approached. This represents a wonderful marketing opportunity. They don’t call it an economic summit for nothing,” says John Mabley, a Halifax-based sponsorship fund-raising consultant working on the summit. But at least one banker voices the concern that, despite official government assurances that conference functions will be tasteful and relatively modest, any spending on the summit may outrage shareholders and depositors alike.

But Chrétiens calls for help with the summit fund-raising were strategically placed. Crawford, 63, and Duvar, 56, are both retiring this spring as chief executives of their respec-

tive companies. Both men are natives of the Maritimes: Crawford was born in Five Islands, N.S., while Duvar is from Charlottetown. And there is no question that both are well-connected: Duvar sits on six corporate boards including the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, while Crawford holds seven directorships outside Imasco and has good contacts in the legal world from his days as a senior partner at the Toronto law firm Osier Hoskin & Harcourt. One banker said, “Purdy Crawford is an extremely persuasive fellow who is not above applying a bit of painful armtwisting when needed.”

Over the next few weeks, that skill may prove useful. As of last week, the corporate sponsors were only about halfway to their goal of $7 million with just six weeks until the summit starts. The total budget for the summit is $28 million, with $20 million in funding from the federal government and $1 million from Nova Scotia. Malcolm McKechnie, a summit spokesman for the federal govern-

ment, says the business donations are meant for special events and, he adds, “If the money is not there, then some events won’t happen.” But conflict over which company gets their name on which event has already flared— and it is expected to continue smouldering in coming weeks. There is a limited list of prestige sponsorship opportunities in Halifax, and there already have been duplicate bids for the same event. One of the big attractions is expected to be Montreal’s award-winning Cirque du Soleil. MacKechnie says that federal officials in the summit office will ultimately decide which company gets which event. And if an impasse is reached, of course, the Prime Minister is only a telephone call away— as he has been from the beginning.

ANDREW WILLIS