PE HUB article on Wellington Financial’s 15th anniversary

ICYMI, here is an article by Kirk Falconer about our firm’s 15th anniversary that appeared online yesterday.

Wellington Financial’s McQueen spots opportunity in an uncertain market

Mark McQueen, president and CEO of specialty finance firm Wellington Financial, sees opportunity for private debt providers as a result of volatile equity markets, especially if continued uncertainty creates challenges for tech companies seeking risk capital.

“You sense a mood among private investors on the equity side who are sensitive to shifts in stock markets,” McQueen told peHUB Canada. “As we see from time to time in the wake of big equity corrections, there’s always the possibility of retrenchment.”

Stock values have recently swung back and forth due to China’s economic slowdown, commodity price declines, and other factors. A report by Buyouts, a peHUB Canada affiliate publication, suggests uncertainty born of the correction is causing private equity investors to step carefully, and may delay some transactions.

McQueen feels this situation could open doors to alternative capital sources, including innovation-focused lenders like Wellington.

“Technology companies need to raise financing in good times and bad,” he said. “If the IPO window is shut, companies with great growth profiles will be looking for the most efficient way to raise capital,” he said. “I think there’s an opportunity for us to play a role.”

Toronto-based Wellington, which this month celebrates the 15th anniversary of its first growth financing, provides term, venture and amortizing loans to Canadian and U.S.-based companies, the bulk of which are in technology sectors. Transactions range from $2 million to $30 million in size and typically engage companies with current year revenue in excess of $5 million. Most of these are venture-backed.

Wellington’s investment pace has been steady over ups-and-downs in market cycles, McQueen said. He believes this owes to consistent demand for a “flexible, less dilutive and cost-efficient capital solution” that offers an all-weather alternative to traditional bank debt and equity.

McQueen believes Wellington has an additional advantage in its experience and knowledge about innovative ecosystems. These qualities count for a lot in a period of uncertainty, he said. They may also account for Wellington’s recurring partnerships with VC firms and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

The firm’s current fund, Wellington Financial Fund IV, has so far made $43 million of loan commitments this year, putting it on track to match the $90 million deployment of 2014. Much of this activity has been in the United States, where 32 of the last 40 financings were located.

Intensified U.S. deal-making is the result of Wellington’s lending model, which “helps companies through a non-amortization structure,” McQueen said. The firm also had the good luck “of showing up on the heels of the financial crisis, when American VCs were looking for new partners.”

Wellington has been just as active exiting portfolio investments. To date this year, it has chalked up five closed and pending realizations. They include Bluestreak Technology, a video solutions platform bought by Espial; Xactly, a sales incentives software company that wrapped up an IPO on the NYSE; and Maxymiser, a marketing cloud tool acquired by Oracle.

Liquidity events will augment the firm’s “already attractive” risk-adjusted returns, which since inception have averaged net 9.5 percent, McQueen said.

McQueen believes there is room for more exits in the near future, despite uncertainty: “It shouldn’t drive away the best technology buyers.” He is less optimistic about technology IPOs.

McQueen co-founded Wellington in 2000 with Ken Rotman, managing director of Canadian private equity firm Clairvest Group. The publicly listed Clairvest, which also manages institutional partnerships, has been Wellington’s lead investor, helping it to raise a total of $440 million via four funds. The largest, Fund IV, raised $200 million in 2013.

Over time, the firm has led close to $600 million in private debt financings from its offices in Toronto, San Francisco and Santa Monica, Calif.

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Wellington Financial Celebrates 15 Years

That seems like a long time when you actually write it down.

August 2015 represents the 15th anniversary of our first growth financing transaction in Fund I. It was a $500k loan to a Vancouver-based company, and despite the small ticket it taught us a lot; today, our average deal size is closer to $8 million. Still small compared to the high yield market, but big enough for most firms in the SME world.

Wellington Financial Fund IV, which announced its $200 million final close in 2013, is a successor fund to three previous entities. Fund III, which was capitalized with $150 million in re-circulating equity funding commitments, led $315 million of financings via 50 loans over a 6-year period. Fund II, with $83 million in re-circulating capital, led $105 million of financings via 18 loans over a 2-year period. Fund I, with just $7 million in re-circulating capital, led $19.5 million of financings.

2015 has been a highly successful year for Wellington’s institutional limited partners, with $43 million of new corporate loan commitments – on the heels of $95 million of commitments in 2014. Wellington’s Fund III and Fund IV portfolio companies have attracted global attention this year, with disclosed acquisitions (pending and/or closed) of BlueStreak Technology (Montreal), InterAct 911 (Chicago), Maxymiser (New York), Softgate Systems (New Jersey), as well as the successful NYSE initial public offering of Xactly Corp. (San Jose). One other Fund III portfolio co was acquired in a strategic acquisition last month, and details will be available in early September.

We should earn our LPs a 10% net return this year, which is always an excellent number for a debt fund; but it looks even better when you consider the TSX is already off 11.5% YTD, and there’s no end in sight to the current rout.

With the recent acquisition of Maxymiser by Oracle, and the IPO of Xactly (XTLY:NYSE) on the New York Stock Exchange, the innovation ecosystem has a good sense of the high quality nature of our portfolio. To quote one U.S.-based VC: “Wellington wants to back my good companies.”

The fact that these great VC-backed companies were able to deftly use our non-dilutive, non-amortizing True Growth Capital to achieve their business objectives is the perfect proof-point for every CFO trying to weigh their financing choices. Our structure is the right choice within the venture debt sector, particularly for mid-stage companies with good growth prospects. And these two representative management teams will attest to our experience, trustworthiness and partnership approach.

As equity markets have yet again produced negative results for investors so far this year, we are reminded about the excellent risk-adjusted returns that can be earned in the private debt market. Although 80% of our capital is currently committed to 23 growth companies across North America, our recirculating capital base positions our firm well for the next few years (see prior post “After 3 years, Fund IV hits 80% committed / drawn mark” July 3-15); if you are looking for anywhere from $2 million to even $60 million, have no fear. There’s plenty of capital available within our group for good companies.

With today’s 15th anniversary announcement, we also shared the news of the recent promotion of Paul McKinlay to Vice-President. He’s soon to start working from our San Francisco office after a couple of successful years at the Toronto HQ. Congrats Paul.

To all of our limited partners, portfolio companies, ecosystem partners, professional advisors and referral sources, thank you for making it all possible. And so much fun, too. Our entire team is deeply grateful for the opportunity to help build great businesses. And see our capital help create/preserve more than 11,500 jobs along the way.

To Ken Rotman, Jeff Parr, and the Board of Directors of Clairvest Group Inc. (CVG:TSX), which was our lead investor back in 2000 and has been our partner in the business ever since, thank you for giving us the tools, support and unfailing guidance that has allowed us to get this far.

Time for a new goal: celebrating our 30th anniversary. Until then.

Thank you.


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Public Service can be truly rewarding

Well, wasn’t that an experience!

I’ve bored you all with the occasional vignette of my time as a member of the Board and Chairman of PortsToronto (aka the Toronto Port Authority) for the better part of the past decade. I know that many of you work or live in the Waterfront / South Core area, while countless others are users of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, the harbour and/or the Islands. Those of you who are interested in the private equity sector are also aware that Billy Bishop’s main carrier is the private equity and pension-backed Porter Airlines. Taken together, I’ve always felt that you wanted to know when things got interesting “down there”, even if it might discourage you from ever allowing your own name to go forward for a similar public Board role, such as the TTC, Metrolinx, GTAA, TPS, UHN, VIA Rail and so forth.

Today marks my 8th anniversary as a Federal appointee to the Board of Directors, and an appropriate day to hand in my resignation now that the pedestrian tunnel is open — 80 years following the project’s original 1935 launch. One such public role is more than enough, and doing double duty for the past 13 months with the additional responsibilities as Chairman of the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority…well, let’s call that unsustainable. The PortsToronto stint was longer than the three years that I had expected (I was reappointed by Cabinet in 2010), but when I sat down to write the Chairman’s letter for the 2013 TPA annual report, I couldn’t get beyond the truism that there’s the course you try to set in life, and the one that you wind up taking.

I was elected to the Chair role in March 2008, after seven months on the Board, and I think it is fair to say that the road the organization has taken since then has served all of our stakeholders extremely well.

How so, you might ask? First, let me set the scene, since it’s not like any other.

The airport has been in business since 1939, but there’s a vocal minority who want to close it. In 2006, these critics of the airport or the parent agency itself questioned its solvency. Operations lost more than $4 million that year and the agency had working capital of just $8 million. This provided ammunition to those with an axe to grind.

Former Toronto Mayor David Miller, attended to by his bully sidekick, former Councillor Adam Vaughan, would call his favourite journalist (Jennifer Lewington, then City Hall Bureau Chief for The Globe and Mail) into the Mayor’s office and pronounce that PortsToronto wasn’t self-sustaining and should be shuttered — with the airport lands (a majority of which are ultimately owned by the Federal government) given to City Hall. Off Ms. Lewington would go and run the story, with barely a cursory fact check (see prior representative posts “‘Public Service’ — easier said than done” Sept. 9-08 and “Fuzzy Civic math at the Globe and Mail” Dec. 5-08) or a recognition that handing the lands over would take the City down a path that was at odds with her own paper’s editorial policy. Not to mention the lost jobs and passenger impact.

Their agenda wasn’t a secret: they wanted to close the airport, and Miller/Vaughan used airport losses generated by the early days of Porter’s birth as the excuse to pretend that PortsToronto (as owner of the airport) wasn’t a self-sustaining agency — which is required by a 1999 Act of Parliament (PortsToronto is not a taxing authority and receives no operating money from any level of government). That those financial losses were largely and ironically due to Mr. Miller’s actions to cancel the 2003-era airport bridge was ignored, of course.

Now, if you understand business, you’d appreciate that early — particularly start-up — losses don’t necessarily equate to an inability to generate long term financial sustainability (the balance sheet matters, too). If you applied the Miller/Vaughan maxim to other areas of business, we’d have no economy but for government and not-for-profits. Messers Miller and Vaughan would certainly fail in the venture capital space: they’d have closed down such Canadian success stories as Kinaxis, Shopify or Systems Xcellence, for example, once they saw the red ink that comes with most start-up ventures.

Apparently, Mr. Vaughan’s 2-ish year experience as an assistant manager of a bar, without ignoring his three prior years as a self-employed freelance journo (he calls it “owning” your own business – aka “good tax deductions”), didn’t prepare him very well to analyze the financial affairs of other companies (see prior post “Does 7,850 trump 1,600,000?” Feb. 4-10). But he said a lot of crazy things to the press and public just the same; anything to get his name in the paper, on the premise that that was how to win at the municipal level. In the years that followed, Mr. Vaughan got used to receiving a polite, fact-based formal letter from me every time he told an intentional fib (lie?) about either the airport or PortsToronto. He hated them I’m sure, and the one time he tried to counter one in public, he was shown up by a truck-no-nonsense radio host by the name of John Oakley (see prior post “Adam Vaughan is at it again” Nov. 14-12). You may have seen Mr. Vaughan attacking Olivia Chow for being a “quitter” when she put her name on the ballot for the upcoming Federal election; he forgets that he himself quit City Council to run in the 2014 Federal Trinity-Spadina byelection. That’s the kind of person we had to deal with: he’d attack, attack, while ignoring the facts. I could never understand why the media bought it (other than his former, and soon to be again, colleagues at CP24).

We got the agency profitable by 2008, and its been that way ever since. By 2013, the TPA had turned a profit of $13.6 million, which grew to almost $15 million last year. Working capital is now $25 million and the equity in the business had doubled to $106 million through sustained profits over the past seven years.

Those consecutive years of profits have given our management and Board a luxury that our predecessors didn’t have: to reinvest tens of millions of dollars in our business and the community at large.

In 2007, the TPA’s donation budget wasn’t very big. A few thousand dollars at most. But over the past few years, at the very moment the capital became available, more than $500,000 per annum has been donated to local charitable causes and community groups. Over a six year period, this amount has totalled more than $6 million. There are no requirements in either the Bylaws or the agency’s mandate to donate a penny to any organization, which wouldn’t come as a surprise. None of the TTC, TCHC, TPS nor other similar local agencies take a big chunk of their revenues and divert it to non-user community groups (TPS and the late John Bitove set up ProAction to raise private funds for such purposes, for example). When Harbourfront lost $5 million of Federal funding when a Budget didn’t pass in Parliament, I wrote to them and offered $500,000 to help fill the hole; the Harbourfront Board voted something like 38-1 to accept the huge donation; Adam Vaughan, who was an ex-officio member of the Harbourfront Board at the time, was the lone dissenting voice (according to a Provincial Board Appointee who was present at the time). Our donation saved programming that might otherwise have been cancelled in 2011. Vaughan was obviously worried this proactive, neighbourly behaviour would undercut his own TPA narrative and he wanted his colleagues to reject it: can you imagine how he justifies that to himself?

You’d have though we were sending Blood Diamonds from Africa, based upon Mr. Vaughan’s opposition, rather than sharing the PortsToronto charitable budget. Donations such as that one was a conscious decision we took because the organization, from top to bottom, cares about its community and had the financial freedom to make good on that sentiment.

By choice, we were the first federal agency in Canada to buy 100% green electricity from Bullfrog Power – that was more than five years ago. From my travels, the only other North American airport to go that “green” is SFO.

Airport opponents complain to sympathetic Globe transportation writer Oliver Moore that we aren’t “transparent.” And yet, we were the first Port Authority of 14 across Canada to post executive and Board travel and hospitality expenses online. That, too, was by choice, six years ago. We were the first federal agency to post important executive correspondence online, all of which was done in the spirit of transparency. The fact that I’ve donated every dollar of my Board fees to charities over the past eight years is irrelevant to the airport opponents on the staff at NOW Magazine. When the facts don’t suit their agenda, these ardent activists simply ignore them; or worse, they call you a child pornographer via Twitter or compare you to a Nazi (see prior post “Were you compared to a Nazi today?” Apr. 8-13). Just like in politics. That’s something that’s a bit unique to the Billy Bishop “situation”, despite the fact that 91% of Torontonians believe the airport is good for the City.

In 2007, it seemed that we’d never come to an agreement with the City of Toronto on airport Payments-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (the mechanism whereby Federal landowners pay for municipal services). And yet, in 2013, we did just that. In fact, since I’ve mentioned taxes, when you add up the city PILTs and gross revenue charges that the TPA pays to Ottawa, we paid an implied corporate tax rate of 28.3% in 2013, for example. Those are cash taxes, and they are higher than if PortsToronto were a traditional Ontario-based corporate entity.

Earlier this year, we also reached an agreement with Toronto City Council regarding the level of PILTs for all non-airport properties. Which means there are zero outstanding financial issues of this kind between the City and PortsToronto as of today. I’m proud of that. That development was only possible once people like Messers Miller and Vaughan were out of the way. You see, they loved to use PortsToronto as a piñata, and would beat it in public any chance they could get. They wouldn’t let the senior City bureaucrats nor the voting block of 14 NDP Councillors entertain a resolution of those issues, no matter how hard we tried. It wasn’t until the wind at City Hall changed direction in 2010 that we could clear the decks; so much wasted energy.

You saw this in every corner of the business, even if it was bad for the City. They ignored our original offer to partner on much-needed city utility main upgrades to Toronto’s Island community, even though they’d posted their own EA. They ignored our offer to partner on building new community hockey rinks, as well, to name just two higher profile examples.

When the City eventually agreed to put their utility mains through our 2012 tunnel project, they wouldn’t pay normal commercial carriage fees (see prior post “Towhey to give advice on leadership and diplomacy?” Dec. 1-13); and yet, when they finally agreed to change the signs along the Gardiner noting the name change to “Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport”, after 5 years of trying, Transportation Dept. sent a bill for $5k.

In 2007, some members of the community wanted a complete review of the airport’s impact on the neighbouring areas. We were glad to do it, which led to the Jacobs Noise Management study in 2008 and 2009. It made recommendations around engine run-ups, residential Noise Sensitive Areas and the construction of a 93 metre-long noise barrier. I’m proud to say that we implemented all 16 recommendations in that arms-length report in the years that followed.

We didn’t stop there.

In 2009, we asked NAV Canada (as airspace operator) to raise the ceiling for flights over the entire Islands, not just the eastern portion where the permanent homes are based. It seemed unfair that a Cessna could do training loops right over your picnic on the western half of the Island, while the homes on the eastern half enjoyed a minimum ceiling that was about twice as high..and therefore far quieter as a result. Sadly, NAV Canada never came through, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying on your behalf.

In an effort to continue to draw out every practical idea that could help us do a better job on behalf of the City, the TPA held 11 different public meetings in 2013, for example. It’ll never be enough for some, and we all know that.

But the fact that more than 80% of Torontonians told Ipsos in 2013 that Billy Bishop it is an important part of Toronto’s economic growth, up 19% from 2010, shows that we’ve been able to balance the needs of our stakeholders with the interests of our neighbours – a definition of success in any business.

When April 2013 arrived, our team found itself facing the proposal by Porter Airlines to introduce new technology jets to Billy Bishop.

As I outlined in an October 2013 speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the PortsToronto Board of Directors and management will look at each important component of this issue from the standpoint of “Do No Harm”. Whether it be environmental, noise, marine activity, health, recreation, traffic, tourism or the economy of Toronto.

I was married at the little church on Toronto Island — St. Andrew’s-by-the-Lake — and I want all of our children to enjoy that peaceful ambiance should they choose to follow in our footsteps and walk down that same wooden aisle.

It is PortsToronto’s task to ensure that the airport’s operations fit into, and not dominate, Toronto’s lively Waterfront and South Core area. The airport is a success, and that success deserves to be embraced. But, as the airport’s operator, we recognized that we have to get this right, while doing no harm, which is exactly the approach I know PortsToronto will take should City Council decide the idea of commercial jets is worthy of its consideration.

If City Council says “no”, which is entirely their domain, the “jet issue” will never get to the doorstep of PortsToronto, which is something I hope that you continue to remember. If City Council does vote to change the Tripartite Agreement to allow new technology jets, my hope is that PortsToronto then suggests a proviso that there be a 15 year trial period, to ensure that this isn’t an irreversible step.

I won’t have a vote on the jet topic, and I have no idea how I’d have voted (yea or nay) once the environmental assessment is done next year and the costs of the infrastructure are tallied and the sources of funds determined thereafter. That’s the point of getting this info in the first place. I laid out many other factors for consideration in my speech to the Toronto Board of Trade, and I know the current PortsToronto Board supports them. One thing is for sure, skeptics are right when they ask: “what do we do if it eventually becomes clear that these ‘whisper jets’ actually harmed the ecosystem? How do we unravel any approval of the proposed jet change then?”

The only solution to that fair question is this: give City Council the right to vote to undo their “jet approval” in 15 years (approval next year being hypothetical, of course). 10 years isn’t long enough of a trial to warrant the expenditures and investments by all concerned. A 20 year period seems unnecessarily long. Which puts me at 15 years of operating history; the idea isn’t that the future Council would have to vote to “reauthorize” jets in, say, 2033. Rather, my suggestion is that they’d have the unilateral right to vote to remove any jet permission when the current Tripartite Agreement coincidentially comes due in 2033. That seems like an appropriate hurdle for elected officials, and puts pressure on future Councillors to canvass their constituents before determining that harm is being done, rather than having the jet experiment expire on some future 15th anniversary without Council having to take a proactive cancellation step at that time.

Technology continues to change the transportation industry for the better, all industries in fact, and airport operators have to be opened-minded when it comes to new aircraft technology. The current Bombardier Q400 turboprop is a perfect example of how far aviation technology can evolve since the Tripartite Agreement governing the airport was originally signed by Toronto, Ottawa and PortsToronto in 1983. Air Canada’s DC-9 fleet, which was state of the art when former Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton proposed the jet ban in 1983, is a now seen as a gas-guzzling, emission pig of an aircraft that is worthless to anyone on our Continent other than a niche junkyard proprietor.

The definition of irony is that the opponents of the Porter Proposal launch their online criticism of these advances in aviation technology using handsets that weren’t envisioned on software that didn’t exist when the airport’s commercial jet ban was put in place.

If technology can change in so many other parts of our lives over a 32 year period, it’s no surprise that progress has been made with jet engine and emission technologies, too. If City Council votes to approve some form of Porter’s Proposal, PortsToronto has an obligation to examine how this new technology can make Billy Bishop a more efficient and attractive operation.

Don’t take this as support for the jet proposal, ’cause it’s not. It’s merely a path to consider for those who will be charged with making such decisions on our collective behalf.

In May 2002, the late Allan Sparrow, the former head of the anti-airport lobby group Community Air (which is now a core driving subset of the anti-jet group NoJetsTO), was reported in the Toronto Star as predicting that Porter’s arrival would cause property values to plummet as much as 25%, and jeopardize some $20 billion in waterfront redevelopment.

But what actually happened?

The redevelopment went ahead just the same, and Waterfront condo values rose more than 70% between 2003 and 2013, mirroring the rise in average home prices across Toronto. In fact, condos prices in the C1 market rose 10% more than C8, even though (or because?) C1 is closer to the airport.

There may well be many valid arguments against the Porter Proposal, but the jet issue shouldn’t turn on fairytale suggestions that home prices will collapse, that PortsToronto wants to pave Lake Ontario (Vaughan’s fav), that the harbour will be closed to sailboats or commercial shipping, or that better utilization of Billy Bishop’s existing commercial slots is going to ruin the way of life of the people who knowingly bought a condo near an airport. You heard that 13 years ago, and doomsday never came.

Moving on….

Our Board of Directors is appointed by all three levels of government – just like Waterfront Toronto – which made for some interesting dynamics in the Miller years. Since 2009, appointees from all three levels have pulled on the oars together and have overseen material progress in each area of the agency’s mandate behalf of all of our key stakeholders. One, in particular, is a project that two my predecessors, James Gooderham Worts and Thomas Rennie, may not have imagined was possible. And that’s the underwater pedestrian tunnel to Billy Bishop.

In 1935, the City of Toronto proposed the construction of a tunnel to the soon-to-be-completed airport. Construction on the underwater connection had even begun before the new federal government vetoed the project in 1938. At the time, The Globe and Mail editorial board called the tunnel project “inevitable”. That was 80 years ago, and as many of us have come to learn, the word “inevitable” was pretty far from the truth.

This 100 year plus piece of infrastructure will outlive us all, and is being paid for entirely from airport user fees via a Public-Private Partnership model. Someday, I hope this underground link extends all the way to the Hanlan’s Point Ferry Dock, providing a new access route for citizens to the Toronto Islands at the same price that users currently pay for the City’s summer ferry service. That each level of government declined to contribute any infrastructure funding for the project when we asked in 2009 (Federal Minister John Baird would, but Ontario Minister George Smitherman wouldn’t partner, despite then-Premier Dalton McGuinty saying publicly that “it was worthy of consideration” on two separate occasions), explains why the extended tunnel idea fell away when the P3 version of the project, financed entirely by airport improvement fees paid by commercial passengers, finally began in 2012. We couldn’t in good conscience ask airport passengers to take on any additional financial burden, having already raised the AIF from $15 to $20 to help cover the new airport tunnel.

The NoJetsTO lobby group says this shows the Board and management team “can’t be trusted,” somehow. That the first proposal was turned down isn’t our fault; that’s the reason why the plan had to change: no funding.

Despite a few disappointments (Metro Police have taken 6 years to consider whether or not they’ll put permanent uniformed officers on the airport site, for example), I am proud of all that has been accomplished by the management, staff, Board and key stakeholders since 2007:

– every line of business is profitable

– a new 200 passenger ferry was needed in 2009 to handle the influx of passengers, to allow the smaller David Hornell VC to serve as a back-up; she was named after Lake Ontario swimming star Marilyn Bell

– we sold a 17 acre parcel of land to the TTC for $1 so they would have the land they need to build a new streetcar barn at Leslie and Lake Shore

– the Outer Harbour Marina was expanded to meet demand, and new docks were installed throughout

– the airport was renamed after WWI ace and Victoria Cross hero Billy Bishop; complete with a beautiful scale Nieuport 17 and historical artifacts in the new tunnel atrium; Billy Barker’s contribution to our City and Country is also memorialized with a statue of the two of them, situated in the tunnel pavilion on the mainland

– two new state-of-the-art noise and aircraft tracking software programs have been installed so that neighours can figure out whether that plane overhead is going to / coming from YYZ or YTZ before they call to complain

– a sound barrier was erected to diminish prop noise as planes turn south across from Stadium Road

– hefty fines were initiated for airport curfew violations (unlike 24 hr/day Pearson Airport, BBTCA is closed to commercial and GA traffic between 11pm and 645am)

– the dockwall at the National Yacht Club was fixed, even though it belonged to the Province of Ontario

– launched the extremely popular Sail-In-Cinema; first of its kind in the world

– launched the redevelopment of the 2.2 acre parking lot at 30 Bay Street

– “Captain John’s” was removed from the foot of Yonge after a protracted battle, at the very firm request of City Council and Waterfront Toronto

– two new ice rinks will soon be built on PortsToronto marine terminal lands at Cherry Street; the first new rink south of St. Clair in 50 years. Girls’ hockey will be treated the same as boys, too

– we doubled the size the airport Fire department, ensuring that its capacity and equipment is well beyond the level recommended by Transport Canada

– airport passenger levels have grown from 24,800 in the mid-2000s to over 2 million a year; the airport benefits Toronto directly by generating more than $2 billion in total annual economic output and more than 6,500 total jobs, including 1,960 jobs directly associated with the airport.

– an $82.5 million pedestrian tunnel was built, without a single dollar of the cost coming from taxpayers

Without the will and wisdom of my Board colleagues, and the support and professionalism of the management and staff, none of this would have been possible. The collegial, productive and collaborative nature of our time together, not to mention a touch of intestinal fortitude, has made the difference at each and every step along the way.

Thanks, too, goes to the key government staff (Adam, Catherine, Chris, Lesli and Vanessa) and elected representatives who made all the difference at key junctures.

Although one would never compare what Billy Bishop or his son Arthur experienced in the skies of France to the modern day version of community service, this experience stands as a testament that a group of public-minded citizens can make a difference in the life of our City.

And that’s truly exciting to me.

Whether it be serving the needs of teens at Covenant House, the Art community, Veterans at Sunnybrook Hospital or being a greeter at the Pan Am Games, we all can find a way to make a small difference in the future of our City. The feedback I’ve received and seen on Twitter from airport passengers is one tangible sign that “success” can be declared. According to Ipsos, PortsToronto’s favourability index with Torontonians doubled between 2007 and 2014; and that was before the tunnel opened.

Some, such as the constructive elected officials I’ve dealt with over many decades, make a far greater personal sacrifice, of course – but any one of us can find a way to make a lasting, positive impact. For those of your who want to find a way to make true, lasting, positive change for your City and community, it can be done!

(disclosure – this post, like all blogs, is an Opinion Piece. And, of course, reflects a personal view and is not meant to represent the views of the PortsToronto, its Board/Staff or the federal government.)

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Oracle acquires Fund IV portfolio co. Maxymiser

Hot of the news wires: Oracle (ORCL:Q) has just announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Maxymiser, one of our Wellington Financial Fund IV portfolio companies. Maxymiser is a leading provider of cloud-based software that enables marketers to test, target and personalize what a customer sees on a Web page or mobile app, substantially increasing engagement and revenue. Maxymiser optimizes over 20 billion customer experiences per month for brands such as Allianz, HSBC, Lufthansa, Tommy Hilfiger and Wyndham.

According to Oracle, its “Marketing Cloud is already the fastest growing software platform for modern marketers in the world. The addition of Maxymiser to Oracle Marketing Cloud will strengthen the most comprehensive solution to manage marketing programs across all digital channels and across the customer lifecycle.”

On behalf of our limited partners, let us extend our congratulations to the entire Maxymiser team, including CEO Tim Brown, Founder & President Mark Simpson, CFO Javier Brage, as well as lead VC investor Noah Walley of Investor Growth Capital. When the company presented at our AGM earlier this year, everyone was blown away by the story. They weren’t the only ones, it would appear.

Management used the proceeds from our US$11 million unitranche financing to fuel Maxymiser’s growth through 2014 and 2015 — growth which was at a rate which obviously caught Oracle’s attention. This is another case study regarding the benefits of our non-dilutive True Growth Capital.


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John Barber convinces Torstar to give him new platform for his tired tall tales

It has been a few years since I’ve written about a discredited former Globe and Mail columnist by the name of John Barber (see prior post “Barber’s Blazing Beretta” Jan 28-09). The reason being, at least from the perspective of an outsider, was that the Globe’s management finally got tired of his biased invective and took away his municipal column several years ago — leaving him with no platform to pursue his decade-long vendetta against Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and its governing body, PortsToronto.

In a strange twist of fate, Mr. Barber has found a new vehicle for his specious airport tales: The Toronto Daily Star. Apparently, the Star knew nothing about the fact that Mr. Barber’s former employers had to deal with a defamation action in relation to his coverage of the airport and its governing body, in addition to the same kind of erroneous material that he is now peddling via last weekend’s Star. And while his most recent Star column falls under an “opinion/commentary” headline, one would assume that the Star would be interested in i) accuracy, and ii) avoiding the appearance that it is aiding a Globe and Mail castoff in his pursuit of a long-standing vendetta.

A couple of my Twitter followers asked for a description of Mr. Barber’s most recent falsehoods, and I’m only too happy to oblige:

Mr. Barber’s claim:

“three century-old ferries so decrepit federal authorities have repeatedly threatened to decommission them in the name of public safety — and probably should. (Instead, Transport Canada has settled on the crude expedient of cutting the antique fleet’s permitted passenger loads, presumably to limit losses from the anticipated disaster.)”

Mr. Barber declines to mention that the ferries in question are owned and operated by the City of Toronto.

Barber claim:

“handsomely subsidized island airport”

Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is not subsidized and receives no funding from any level of government. PortsToronto, as owner and operator of Billy Bishop Airport, receives no Federal grants (by law) and is entirely financially self-sufficient. Barber knows all of this as a result of his earlier litigation experience. In addition, PortsToronto paid $2.4 million in gross royalty charges to the Federal government for 2014, and an additional $2.9 million in Payments In Lieu Of Taxes to the City of Toronto. Rather than receive a “subsidy,” as Mr. Barber claims, PortsToronto and Billy Bishop Airport are a direct net contributor to the public purse.

Barber claim:

“…their almost-new ferry soon to be replaced by a brand-new pedestrian tunnel built by a public authority for more than $80 million.”

The Marilyn Bell I ferry to Billy Bishop Airport, acquired in 2009 (without taxpayer dollars), is not being “replaced” by the pedestrian tunnel, given that the airport will still need to provide regular ferry access for Ornge ambulances, as well as catering, fuel and delivery trucks, for example. The new tunnel is required to improve the passenger experience, and became warranted after passenger traffic increased from ~25,000 passengers per annum a few years ago to more than 2 million. Modest local traffic surges will also be moderated, which is an added bonus.

Moreover, PortsToronto financed the $82.5 million pedestrian tunnel under a Public-Private Partnership model, financed completely by Airport Improvement Fees collected from Billy Bishop Airport passengers. The use of the “public authority” language, when combined with the earlier “handsomely subsidized” claim, leaves readers with the impression that Federal taxpayers are subsidizing the construction of the tunnel. To be clear, there are no taxpayer dollars involved in the construction or maintenance of the tunnel. This is irrefutable.

In fact, it is Billy Bishop Airport passengers who subsidized the City of Toronto when PortsToronto agreed that new city water and sewer mains could be combined with the tunnel project, saving City taxpayers $10 million on their own, previously-announced utility main upgrade project (which dated to the era of former Mayor David Miller).

Barber claim:

“Or maybe the airport will have already gone bust by then, and Torontonians will finally realize they don’t need any ferries to reclaim this precious stolen property.”

Billy Bishop Airport was built on land that was largely a silty swamp in the early 1930s, reclaimed from Toronto Harbour by a predecessor agency to PortsToronto. It was “stolen” from no one, as in evidenced by photographs taken at the time.

I’ve written to the Star’s public editor, Kathy English. One can only hope that she will put a stop to Mr. Barber, at least on this topic, once and for all.

(disclosure – this blog, as always, is an Opinion Piece, reflecting a personal view, and in no way represents the views of PortsToronto, its Board/Staff or the federal government)

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