Bob Dhillon, Barbara Stymiest and Vahan Kololian named to Order of Canada

Even with something as benign as the Order of Canada, I can create polemics.
OPM 2 min read

Bob Dhillon, whose stated goal when he was doing his MBA at Western was to become the world's first Sikh billionaire will have to update his LinkedIn profile. He itemizes all his achievements there, everything from creating a $10k scholarship at Lakehead University to donating $10m to the University of Lethbridge, where the business school is named after him. But the list has not yet been updated to reflect his newfound status today, as an Officer of the Order of Canada. Bob Dhillon, aka Navjeet Dhillon, is a Calgary-based real estate mogul, founder of TSX-listed Mainstreet Equity. Bob's stake in Mainstreet is worth over $500m. And he has some other interests as well, such as a 3,000 acre island development in Belize. So he has certainly achieved something close to his stated life ambition.

Mainstreet is an amazing story of patient, intelligent real estate compounding - a 47x bagger, in the 22 years it has been public. Bob Dhillon is both a great allocator and a first rate steward of other people's money. He owns close to half the company, has virtually no history of issuing shares and has grown a small real estate portfolio into an empire with more than $2b in assets. If you want to read a great overview of Mainstreet as an investment, read this recent piece from Toronto investor Jay Vasantharajah. If you want to learn more about Bob Dhillon's amazing story, there's no better source than Bob Dhillon's LinkedIn profile.

Barbara Stymiest, former CEO of the Toronto Stock Exchange has been named a Member of the Order (a lesser grade than Officer). Same for Vahan Kololian. Vahan is a co-founder and former President of Polar Asset Management, the biggest hedge fund in Canada and the current Chair of Aventine Investment Counsel. He is married into the Bentley family of Vancouver (of Canfor fame). Two other new members relevant to Bay Street: Morris Goodman, founder of Pharmascience and father of Paladin Labs founder, Jonathan Goodman and Jean Houde, Chairman of National Bank.

Many people don't know this, but there's a hierarchy in the Order of Canada. Bob Dhillon being named Officer means he's in the second highest tier. The others I named are mere Members, the lowest tier, of which there are currently more than 2,000 living members. They get to use CM after their names. Officers get to to use OC, while the highest tiers are known as Companions (CC). All 3 classes get a white enamel snowflake brooch, but Companions also get a nose ring.

I only learned of these gradations recently, so I regret to say that some of you have been lowered in my esteem. Here's how the Order of Canada ranks some Bay Street notables:

Top shelf

George Cohon (founder of McDonald's Russia)

Stephen Jarislowsky

Wayne Gretzky

Mid shelf

Brent Belzberg

Gerry Schwartz

Larry Tanenbaum

Jimmy Pattison

Bottom shelf

Jay Hennick

Kathleen Taylor

Larry Bloomberg

Jack Cockwell

Sad! In any event, naming people "companions" and " officers" is terrible branding. In the British honors system, people get to be knights and commanders of the empire. I have analyzed the issue and there's no rhyme nor reason to the Order of Canada. Margaret Atwood and Boutros Boutros-Ghalli are Companions, the top ranked group. Err, hello? I doubt Margaret Atwood is even worth $50m and BBG is not even Canadian. Peter C. Newman is a Companion and yet everyone knows I am a way better writer plus I have much hairier eyebrows. Bruce Flatt, on the other hand, doesn't even have the Order of Ontario. These are the sorts of social injustices OPM Wire was founded to address. You drop me a note and I will try to pull some strings with the newly-created OPM Wire Order of Merit.

Happy Boxing Week,

NoBull Klev,

Kommander of the OPM Wire Order of Merit

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