Live and Learn: Dan Sullivan

The biz rainmaker on his new gig as Canada's consul general in New York.

My father was a Canadian from Hamilton, and my mother was an American from Minneapolis. He decided to do some travelling and ended up visiting friends in Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis. He liked Minneapolis and had an opportunity to get into business with a friend.

He had a food-produce company called La Choy and sold it to a large U.S. food company in the mid-'50s. They made Chinese food products. You still see La Choy in some stores in the U.S.

On turning 21, dual citizenship didn't exist then, so I had to choose either to be a Canadian or an American. And my father insisted that I be a Canadian. So I became a Canadian citizen in 1963.

When my father wanted me to come back to Canada, I didn't know what to do, so I enrolled in the faculty of economics at the University of Toronto. After several weeks, I discovered that I wasn't really enjoying it, so I enrolled in the school of management and completed an MBA degree.

I decided that I wanted to go into investment banking, and I began interviewing with Canadian investment-banking firms. I started with McLeod, Young, Weir in 1968.

Austin Taylor became head of McLeod, Young, Weir in 1978 and remained in that position through to 1993. He was my boss. Austin was bigger than life. At times he was outrageous, colourful and unpredictable, but, all in all, he was an absolutely wonderful person.

One transaction that stands out was the sale of Cadillac Fairview Corp. in 1987 to JMB Realty, which was acting for 38 U.S. pension funds. That was a $3-billion transaction, which is large in 1987 dollars.

Looking back, I have to say that my 38 years at Scotia have been extraordinarily satisfying. I don't think I could have chosen a more interesting or challenging career than investment banking. In this business, you have to make sacrifices. If you love your work, you don't mind at all. It's the thrill of a deal. You get on a high and it's wonderful.

The one thing that has been most significant in terms of change in the investment-banking industry in Canada has been bank ownership. In 1987, the Ontario government allowed deregulation, which in turn allowed the Canadian banks to buy investment banking firms. It gave the banks access to a much bigger balance sheet and allowed them to expand their trading operations.

In investment banking, we don't sell a product, we provide a service, and the service in many cases is a relationship. People have to trust you.

I'll be 65 next September, and I was planning to retire at the end of the year. But retirement means different things for different people. I had hopes of doing something else that would be less time-consuming than my responsibilities at the bank.

I enjoy playing golf for diversion, but I wouldn't say I'm a passionate golfer. A passionate golfer is one that really takes it seriously.

Notwithstanding the fact that being consul general is very much a full-time job, I got so excited about it that retirement's the last thing on my mind right now.

New York is an exciting city, it's truly energized. But once you travel the world and live in other locations, I think you see what a great ethos we have here in Canada. I'm going to miss that. I'll be keeping my residence in Toronto. The federal government provides Canada's consul general in New York with a fully furnished apartment on Park Avenue. It's very nice.

My job is to benefit Canada. It's imperative that Canada has good, strong, respectful relations with the U.S.

We may be a more secure country than Americans think we are. And you can quote me on that.

Dan Sullivan

New York

Born Sept. 13, 1942,


Business rainmaker, investment banker


Enrols in economics at the University of Toronto after doing a BA and an MBA at Columbia. A year later, gets a second MBA at U of T.


Starts first job at Toronto-based brokerage McLeod, Young, Weir Ltd., which was bought by the Bank of Nova Scotia in 1987.


Becomes Scotia Capital's deputy chairman after more than two decades as a star real-estate financier at the bank.


Named chairman of the Toronto Stock Exchange. Oversees the TSE's transformation to a publicly traded company in 2002.


Appointed Canada's consul general in New York by Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, replacing Pamela Wallin.