Brian Tobin has done oil and gas deals as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, and mining transactions as head of Consolidated Thomson Iron Mines Inc. Now he will do deals for a living, as a vice-chairman at Bank of Montreal's investment banking unit.
Mr. Tobin will join BMO's capital markets unit on Monday in a role that is all about using contacts and expertise established in 20 years of politics and business to bring in banking and advisory work for the bank.
A number of former politicians have become significant rainmakers on Bay Street. The poster boy for that is former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna, who joined Toronto-Dominion Bank as a vice-chairman and has become well known for his ability to drum up business.
Mr. Tobin said in an interview that he expects to be in an active deal-making role, as opposed to a more public and government relations-oriented job description.
"I am a negotiator. I've been a negotiator all my life," he said. As for politics, the 58-year-old said, "I'll leave politics to the next generation."
Mr. Tobin made his name as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador from 1996 to 2000, when huge offshore energy projects were getting rolling, and then as federal industry minister from 2000 to 2002.
For the past decade he has been in business. He was chairman and, for a brief time, chief executive officer of Consolidated Thompson, which started as a junior miner and was eventually sold for $5-billion in 2011. He also had a brief stint as chief executive of MI Developments, part of what was then the empire of auto-parts magnate Frank Stronach.
Of late, Mr. Tobin had been working as a senior business adviser at the law firm formerly known as Fraser Milner Casgrain. The firm, now called Dentons, has had a number of significant departures in the wake of an international merger with two other firms. In addition, he is chairman of two companies, including bus manufacturer New Flyer Industries Inc.
Mr. Tobin said BMO approached him a few weeks ago about a job change and the move was a "natural progression."
The role of vice-chairman at an investment bank is one generally handed to very senior, very well-connected people who can bring in deals and tighten connections to existing and potential clients. Mr. Tobin was an obvious choice, said Darryl White, head of global corporate and investment banking at the firm.
"We are in the business of brokering relationships," Mr. White said.
Mr. Tobin said one of his initial focuses at BMO will be on clients in the resource business, a key area for the bank and one that has been hit hard in recent days as commodity prices have plunged. He said his message will be that the business is "distressed, but that will turn."
(Boyd Erman is a Globe and Mail Capital Markets Reporter & Streetwise Columnist.)
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