Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Canada’s most-awarded
newsroom for a reason
Stay informed for a
lot less, cancel anytime
“Exemplary reporting on
COVID-19” – Herman L
per week
for 24 weeks
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Rob Normandeau at the top of Citadel Hill overlooking Halifax harbour, Nova Scotia.

Paul Darrow/The Globe and Mail

The McCains and Sobeys, two powerful business families with deep roots in rural Atlantic Canada, are joining forces for the first time in an investment venture to inject capital into enterprises in smaller towns and cities across Canada.

Their new firm, SeaFort Capital Inc., which will be based in Halifax, will act as a private-equity investment vehicle for Donald Sobey, one of the architects of the national grocery chain, his son Rob, a top manager in the Sobey empire, and Scott McCain, a senior executive in Maple Leaf Foods and older son of the late Wallace McCain, co-founder of the family's global French fry business.

More than that, this new firm signals a generational evolution, reflecting the gradual leadership shift to younger people, such as Rob Sobey, a third-generation owner now running the family's Lawtons Drugs, and Scott McCain, part of the second generation of his family frozen-food dynasty.

Story continues below advertisement

Halifax executive Rob Normandeau, 38, is the president of the new company that is aiming to target medium-sized, profitable companies with earnings of between $2-million and $10-million, often caught in a demographic squeeze as owners prepare to retire, their families can't carry on, and company managers are seeking investment partners to help the businesses continue.

And veteran Nova Scotia Liberal MP and former cabinet minister Scott Brison, a former investment banker, is serving as the chairman.

"This is a significant pool of capital that will grow over time and it has the backing of two of Canada's top business families," Mr. Brison said.

His role, he says, has been cleared through the federal Ethics Commissioner and there is no conflict with an opposition MP acting in this capacity. Mr. Brison had been vice-president of a securities company when he was also sitting as an MP earlier in his political career.

He is one of the six founding shareholders in the new venture – all are from Atlantic Canada. The sixth is Maxime St-Pierre, Mr. Brison's partner and a restaurant owner in Halifax. He will not sit on the board; Michael Milligan, president of GWF McCain Financial Services Inc., the McCain family office, is the sixth board member.

"The McCains and Sobeys have helped build world-class companies from a base in the Maritimes," noted Mr. Brison. "What binds the founding investors is [they are all]from the region and have confidence in the region."

Mr. Brison said the families are looking for investment opportunities in cities such as Sarnia or Brandon or Medicine Hat, where mid-market businesses are not as well served by Toronto-based financial institutions.

Story continues below advertisement

The Sobeys, based in Stellarton, N.S., and the McCains, who come out of Florenceville, N.B., will have instant credibility with entrepreneurs in these smaller centres, he believes.

The company will be based in Halifax, thus contributing to the need to build a financial services ecosystem in Atlantic Canada, but its investments will be nationwide, he said.

In a release announcing the new company, Rob Sobey says he sees SeaFort as a "multi-generational opportunity to build great companies and invest in strong entrepreneurs here and across Canada."

And Scott McCain, in the same release, talks about the "Maritime values" of "fair dealing" in business.

SeaFort was conceived quickly and came together smoothly, according to Mr. Brison, who has known the families for years. He had met Mr. Normandeau when he first came to Halifax from Bay St. to work for Clarke Inc. in 2005.

Mr. Normandeau, 38, ended up running the publicly traded company that invests in undervalued businesses. He recently stepped down from that role, and had offers from outside of the region.

Story continues below advertisement

But this, he said, was a great opportunity to stay in the region that struggles with a brain drain.

SeaFort just signed its lease for an office on Barrington St. – one of the main downtown business streets in Halifax – on Thursday.

And Mr. Normandeau, a lawyer who worked in the Toronto offices of the big U.S. law firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, says there are advantages to being based on Barrington St. as opposed to Bay St.

"It opens doors," he said in a recent interview, noting that "people have their guard up" when someone arrives from Wall St. or Bay St.

But Atlantic Canadian executives give off a different vibe. He said businesses are always happy to see Nova Scotians – "Everyone has a nice story about Nova Scotia or knows someone from Nova Scotia ..."

In addition, he says SeaFort will take a different approach than other, larger investment firms. Patience is what will be practised, he says, in dealing with the companies SeaFort invests in. For example, investment could continue for 15 to 20 years.

Story continues below advertisement

"There are no artificial time lines," adds Mr. Brison.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies