PCMA co-founder and director David S. Brown recently established Mac Urquhart PhD Award in Economics at Queen's University, with the aim of preserving the legacy of the late Dr. Malcolm Urquhart, who had played a huge role on his career in the private capital markets space.
In this interview, Brown shares how Urquhart served as an example for students. He also talks about how he started his career in the private capital markets space and how Weirfoulds LLP has supported his outside ventures and initiatives -- even the formation of the Private Capital Markets Association of Canada.
PCMA: Please tell us about the recently-established Mac Urquhart PhD Award in Economics at Queen's University.
Brown: Mac Urquhart was a giant in his field of Economics and my professor at Queen’s University. He was schooled in a one-room schoolhouse, lived through the Great Depression, taught classes in a one-room schoolhouse for 5 years while he earned money to be able to afford university, took correspondence courses, and graduated from the University of Alberta at the top of his class. He then did his post-graduate work at the University of Chicago, which was (and to this day) remains the top Economics program in the world. He also taught at MIT, enlisted in the war effort, worked in the Federal Department of Finance during the war reconstruction and finished out the bulk of his career teaching and researching at Queen’s University; plus built the modern Economics Department at Queen’s. He was humble, brilliant, interested in many areas outside his field of Economics. He is also a member of the Greatest Generation, instilled confidence in many of his students and deserves to be remembered (I think you will agree). This award will ensure that annually, for many years to come
PCMA: How did your career in private capital markets start and what led you to this path?
Brown:My career in private capital markets started with an Economics Degree from Queen’s University and a Law Degree from the University of Toronto. I was always interested in finance — the courses I took reflected that interest, and the institutions I attended were recognized leaders in those fields (in terms of Corporate Law and Economics). I displayed an early aptitude, won some awards along the way and discovered my professional passion.
This ultimately led me to practicing Corporate Finance, M&A, and Corporate Law generally at WeirFoulds LLP — a leading mid-sized law firm in Toronto, Ontario which has consistently been ranked the top mid-sized firm in Ontario. Once in private practice, I was fortunate to have co-founded the Toronto Venture Group™, the Toronto Angel Group™ (now called the Maple Leaf Angels™) and the PCMA – all of which became leading organizations in the private capital corporate finance ecosystem.
I also Co-Chair the Annual Private Equity Summit, which is the leading venue for the “big flows” of capital (i.e., Private Equity) and at the opposite end of the investment spectrum, I sit on the Board of Angel Investors Ontario (AIO) which serves Ontario’s 13 formal Angel Groups comprised of approximately 1,400 Angels/Accredited Investors in Ontario. All of those steps reflect my passion for the private capital markets.
PCMA: What do you love the most about your current organization? What makes it different from other firms in the same space?
Brown: I love the autonomy. WeirFoulds LLP has supported my initiatives (some described above), when other firms may have shied away from earlier stage or unproven initiatives. I also love the fact that what makes WeirFoulds LLP somewhat different is that on the Corporate side of the Firm, we are thoroughly middle-market focused, which is the sweet spot of the Canadian economy (though we also do serve a number of multi-billion dollar clients).
The billion-dollar deals get the headlines in the ROB and Financial Post, but the unheralded middle-market is the most active, growing, and thriving. For me, the most interesting part of the Corporate Finance ecosystem is that it is where I can personally be very impactful to those I serve by relying on me not just for legal advice but also for business counsel. To that end, I am consistently referred to by my clients as a “businessman’s lawyer”.
PCMA: Please tell us briefly about your role in your company.
Brown: I am a Senior Partner at WeirFoulds LLP, have spent my entire legal career here and have been consistently peer reviewed as a leading Corporate lawyer in Canada by Best Lawyers™. I currently am in the sweet spot of my career trajectory, have achieved some degree of profile in the private capital markets (and middle-market), and my “rolodex” is as robust as it has ever been.
My principal roles are to source new clients and business opportunities for the Firm as well as to ensure existing clients’ needs are satisfied, including assisting them in their capital raising endeavours. Once sourced, I will ensure the work is completed by the right lawyer at the right level, so as to ensure not only client satisfaction with the result, but also with the fee. I also tend to handle the more complex legal and strategic issues for my clients that “bubble up” from the rank and file within the Firm working on my files. I also head our Private Equity Group / Private Capital Group, which meets every two weeks — a large part of that involves technical education and business development training for the more junior lawyers that form part of my group.