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Sports Olympic bobsled champion Monty Gordon, 87, was ‘straight shooter’ in business world

Driver Lamont [Monty] Gordon (front) and brakeman Gordon Currie are all smiles at the finish line after the second fastest heat time during World Championships in Garmisch, Germany, Feb. 1962.

Blumenthal/Handout

A farm boy from rural Ontario, Monty Gordon worked his way through university and in 1957 joined Nesbitt Thomson, a Montreal brokerage house, where his intelligence, hard work and infectious charm made him a star.

When Mr. Gordon told his family he was working in the stock market, his father Ernest Gordon, a dairy farmer, was pleased, assuming his son was buying and selling livestock. Monty Gordon always spoke highly of his father and mother Katharine, saying they were such hard workers. So was he, but off the farm.

Lloyd Lamont Gordon, who has died at 87, grew up on a farm near Harriston, in Western Ontario. He said only his mother ever called him Lloyd, and all his life he was known as Monty, although the more formal L. Lamont had more cachet in business.

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After Harriston High School, where he was president of the student council, Mr. Gordon travelled 120 kilometres south to the University of Western Ontario in London. He earned a business degree and made connections that stayed with him all of his life. At university, Mr. Gordon was mixing with people from rich families, but the dairy farmer’s son had to support himself. He took on several jobs, including driving a taxi. He was also house manager of the Zeta Psi fraternity and is credited with getting it out of financial trouble by organizing successful Friday night parties.

After graduating, he and his university friend Vic Emery went to Europe in the summer of 1955 working their way across on Norwegian freighters, Mr. Gordon landing in Bergen, Norway, and Mr. Emery in Belgium. They met in Paris and toured Europe in an old beat-up car. The two had been in the naval reserve at university and found that donning their junior officer’s uniforms got them invited to some great parties. At the end of the trip, Mr. Gordon took a naval course in England.

That winter, they found themselves in St. Moritz in Switzerland, where they were introduced to the daredevil sport of bobsledding. Mr. Gordon joined the St. Moritz Tobogganing Club in 1956 and was a member for all of his life. He and Mr. Emery eventually formed the Canadian bobsled team. They practised at the bobsled run at Lake Placid, N.Y., 140 kilometres from Montreal.

In 1961 the team entered competitions in the United States and Europe and they raced in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in St. Moritz. The Canadian team won a gold medal with Mr. Gordon driving the four-man bobsled. In the 1964 Olympics, the Canadian team won a gold medal in the four-man bobsled event with Mr. Emery driving. Mr. Gordon competed, but his sled did not win a medal. He drove four-man and two-man bobsleds.

The bobsled team included many men who went on to successful business careers, including Mr. Emery, Gordon Eberts, Paul Levesque and Christopher Ondaatje, (brother of the author Michael Ondaatje) among others.

“Monty Gordon and Vic Emery were the driving force that propelled the rags-to-riches Canadian bobsled team to the Olympics,” Mr. Ondaatje said.

Mr. Gordon also raced sports cars on tracks near Montreal, and his accidents on the track earned him the nickname “Crash Gordon.” His crew of friends also rented a ski chalet in Saint-Sauveur, which at the time was the party capital of the Laurentians. In Montreal, in the late 1950s, Mr. Gordon shared an apartment on Ridgewood on the side of the mountain with Mr. Emery and Robin Korthals, who went on to become president of the Toronto Dominion Bank.

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Back in Canada, Mr. Gordon started work at Nesbitt Thomson in a building at the corner of St. Peter and St. James, as the streets were known then. He worked on what is called the institutional side, that is trading stock for large clients such as insurance companies, banks and pension funds.

Mr. Gordon rose quickly at Nesbitt Thomson and became a director of the firm in 1964. He worked for Nesbitt’s office in New York and was instrumental in convincing his partners to buy a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, something that was unheard of in Canada at the time. Nesbitt paid around half a million dollars for the seat, which allowed the firm to trade directly on the floor of the exchange, meaning they did not have to pay commissions to a U.S. dealer when buying U.S. stocks.

Paul Levesque, one of Mr. Gordon’s oldest friends who started working with him at Nesbitt Thomson in 1958, felt the reason for Mr. Gordon’s business success was that he was a straight shooter, got to the point and believed in what he was saying.

“It wasn’t difficult for Monty to convince someone of the pros and cons of a deal because he spoke so honestly and was so open,” Mr. Levesque said.

Mr. Gordon also helped the careers of many young people in the investment business. Hubert Marleau was a young man out of university with no experience, but Mr. Gordon hired him at Nesbitt Thomson.

"He was a very unusual person. He had dreams, and they were ambitious dreams," said Mr. Marleau, who later founded his own firm, Marleau Lemire. "When he bought the seat in New York he gave me the job of training the Nesbitt directors to make sure they passed the New York Stock Exchange exams."

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On New Year’s Day in 1969, Mr. Gordon left a promising career at Nesbitt Thomson and started a brokerage firm in Montreal with his bobsled teammate, Mr. Eberts. The firm was called Gordon, Eberts Securities, and eventually became plain Gordon Securities. The firm was entrepreneurial, took risks and hired ambitious young salespeople and traders. One of their innovations in Canada was the “bought deal” in which Gordon would buy the newly issued shares of a company with the goal of selling it to investors for a profit.

Mr. Gordon and his firm eventually moved to Toronto in the late 1970s, and he left the firm to work on a string of entrepreneurial deals, from a startup drug company to a highway barrier firm. He had a magic touch, and a large group of followers always seemed ready to invest his businesses. Large brokerage firms also wanted him around, and for many years he was chairman of Sprott Securities.

Mr. Gordon was a familiar figure on Yonge Street walking every morning with his briefcase from his home to the Rosedale subway station to head downtown to work.

Lloyd Lamont Gordon was born in Harriston, Ont., on April 29, 1932. He died in Toronto on July 26. Mr. Gordon was married three times. He leaves his children Catherine, Deborah, James, Pamela, Jennifer and fourteen grandchildren.

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