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Peter Brown, founder of Canaccord
Peter Brown, founder of Canaccord

Canaccord changes reflect the past and future Add to ...

The past and the future are both in sharp focus this week at Canaccord Financial Inc., as founder Peter Brown takes another step back from the company as the brokerage firm he started completes another step in an expansion far beyond its Vancouver roots.

In an internal announcement, Canaccord said Thursday that Mr. Brown is giving up the title of chairman and become “honorary chairman.” As of April 1 he will continue to sit on the company's board but in a non-executive role. David Kassie, who had the title of “group chairman,” will run board meetings.

“Recently, Peter enjoyed his 70th birthday and with the passing of this milestone, he has decided to focus more of his time and efforts on the outstanding charitable and non-profit work for which he is so well known,” Canaccord chief executive officer Paul Reynolds said in the internal announcement.

Mr. Brown's decision to step further back -- he gave up the chief executive role about five years ago -- comes amid a series of changes resulting from Canaccord's largest-ever acquisition, the recently closed takeover of British brokerage firm Collins Stewart Hawkpoint. The combination of the two firms is resulting in about 170 staff cuts where the two companies had overlapping operations in London and New York, according to a person familiar with the decision.

There are also changes in leadership. That includes a new No. 2 manager in Canaccord's U.S. business, currently run by Mr. Brown's son Jamie.

The elder Mr. Brown has a storied business career, having invested in a small Vancouver brokerage firm that became Canaccord and eventually turned into what today is Canada's largest independent brokerage firm. After giving up the CEO role, he remained involved, although to a lesser degree, as Canaccord has grown substantially under Mr. Reynolds. In recent years, the firm has expanded in regions such as Asia and the U.K. It also bolstered its presence in Canada with the purchase of Mr. Kassie's firm, Genuity Capital Markets.

Once a firm mostly that mostly focused on smaller companies, Canaccord is showing up as an adviser on ever bigger deals, such as the recent multi-billion dollar sales of Daylight Energy and Viterra Inc.

For his achievements, BC Business magazine gave Mr. Brown a lifetime achievement award for entrepreneurship, and in 2011 he was inducted into the BC Business Hall of Fame.

Besides building a brokerage from nothing into a very substantial something, Mr. Brown has played a key role in the public life of Vancouver and Canada.

Bolting about Vancouver in power suits and French cuffed-shirts, Mr. Brown was a mover in the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games bid, and in the bringing of Expo 86 to the city. He's a staunch supporter of the University of British Columbia and the Fraser Institute. In his personal life, he's an avid art collector, with tastes ranging from the Group of Seven to west coast native art.

In interviews over the years, Mr. Brown has never been shy with an opinion or a telling anecdote. Mr. Reynolds notes in his internal email that Mr. Brown “will no doubt continue to provide invaluable guidance and support to our executive team as a trusted advisor.”

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