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A hair-raising touch turns to fundraising

Steve Hudson - remember him? The man behind Newcourt Credit Group, a once highly successful financing company that went down in flames, attracting the ire of shareholders and in particular, short sellers.

Mr. Hudson went on to make a lot of dough in private equity in the U.S. by turning around Florida-based Hair Club for Men. He sold that to beauty giant Regis Corp. and then went on to work with that company, applying the hair club magic to beauty chains PureBeauty, BeautyFirst and Trade Secrets.

Mr. Hudson cashed out of all that this year. Tuesday night, he was in cold, damp Toronto as lead sponsor of a modest though charming charity event for social services agency Dixon Hall. It helps out residents of public housing complex Regent Park and homeless people - and one of its enterprises is a woodworking program that turns out skilled construction workers and cabinet makers.

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Tuesday's cash bar and hors d'oeuvres event featured wooden toy boxes decorated by artists and a spectacular doll house built to scale for Barbie. We don't know who bought the dollhouse for $1,500, but we can tell you the highest-selling toy box went for $350 to Jim Coutts, once principal secretary to former prime minister Pierre Trudeau. In all, $30,000 was raised.

The event was something of a Newcourt reunion, with a handful of the company's former executives showing up, including Gord Thompson and John Sadler. Also on hand was former Liberal cabinet minister Bill Graham (now Chancellor of Trinity College) and Mitchell Cohen, principal of builder Daniels Corp., which is active in the Regent Park redevelopment.

So what's Mr. Hudson up to? He's back in Toronto and looking for private equity for a new, unnamed venture. And what would naturally follow from big scores in hair and beauty? "Investments in restructuring opportunities in the broader Canadian economy," was all he would say.

Mia at Munk Debates

It's nice to see a father and son working together. Next week will see another of the Munk Debates in Toronto. These semi-annual evening public policy debates (which are open to the public for a ticket price of $30) are backed by gold tycoon Peter Munk. This one features on its two teams of debaters activist actress Mia Farrow, Gareth Evans, CEO of International Crisis Group, former American ambassador to the UN John Bolton and retired Canadian general Rick Hillier.

The event is long sold out, but it will also be broadcast live in Cineplex movie theatres across Canada - thanks to Mr. Munk's son Anthony, who is managing director of Onex Corp. and a director of Cineplex Galaxy Income Fund.

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