Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Biz Monday still looking tired

Biz Monday is no longer a tabloid-sized insert.
For years Business Monday, or Biz Monday as it was later rechristened, was a loser. It usually featured something of interest but all-too-often the stories were unfinished, incomplete. Biz Monday was a frustrating read.

Well, the tabloid version of the little insert is finally gone. Good riddance. The London Free Press new editor-in-chief Joe Ruscitti wrote about the tabloid's demise. He admitted Biz Monday was looking a little tired.

The broadsheet-sized Biz Monday is now a reality. Features, columnists and reporters have migrated from the tabloid to the broadsheet. Unfortunately, the tired feeling has also made the transition.

Ruscitti promised the weekly centerpiece [sic] will be a full-page profile. The first "and you are?" was full-page but that was about all that was full about it.

David Taylor, the chief executive and founder of Pacific & Western Bank of Canada, was featured in an amazingly incomplete profile. Taylor is a really interesting man and this comes through in the newspaper's feature but great chunks of the rich, complex Taylor story are left untouched.

Taylor is well-known and, from everything that I know of him, well-respected. In fact, Joe Ruscitti and David Taylor have something in common. Ruscitti is on the board of directors of the London Community Foundation, while Taylor is on the foundation's investment committee.

In fact, the Taylor name is so well thought of in some circles that one investor I know invested in Discovery Air after learning that this aviation start-up was a creation of Taylor's. On the strength of the Taylor name this investor bought a few thousand shares. And over the course of a few months lost a few thousand dollars.

Now let me make this very clear. I like David Taylor. Although I don't know him personally, I have met the man and I know some folk fairly well who are quite close to Taylor. I have never heard anything bad about the man. Nothing.

The value of DA.A stock is starting to recover.
But sometimes being good is not good enough. Despite Taylor's extensive background in aviation and finance and his ties to Canada's north, Discovery Air has had a very rough flight. Check out the attached graph charting the history of its rapidly descending stock price.

The story of Discovery Air was featured in Up Here Business, The Magazine of Canada's Enterprising North, and the story, Things Fall Apart by Jack Danylchuk, is worth a read. This is the important business story missing from The London Free Press feature.

Despite its penny stock status DA.A is profitable.
As I believe I have made clear, I am an admirer of David Taylor. When stock in the high-flying Discovery Air crashed in value, I became interested. Taylor is one smart fellow and after some research I found nothing to justify the incredibly low stock price. When Discovery Air (DA.A) was trading around 16 cents I thought it was time to buy. (Unlike some of my other smaller investments, Polaris Minerals for instance, Discovery Air is a profitable company. Nice.) I even told a retired friend to buy into the little Canadian airline. He didn't; I did.

My DA.A shares up 137.17%.
Yes, I know that Taylor was squeezed out and is no longer at the helm of the company he created. But you wouldn't know any of this from The London Free Press article. The entire Discovery Air story is missing from the Biz Monday profile. A business which once reportedly consumed almost as much of Taylor's time as the Pacific & Western Bank didn't even rate a footnote in The Free Press article.

And how did I do with my purchase of Discovery Air? In the interest of full disclosure I sold half my holdings when the price doubled and completely recouped my initial investment. I still hold some shares and at the moment they are up 137.17 percent. I'm happy. This investment is now all pure profit.

I wonder how many shares of DA.A The Free Press writer owns? My bet is none. When I worked at the paper I learned that one of the business reporters didn't follow the stock market and had no opinion on anything related to stocks. This reporter confessed to letting his wife manage their investment portfolio. Maybe that lady should have edited the David Taylor's profile. She might have noticed the missing airline.

Some observations about the Biz Monday article on David Taylor and the crying need for thoughtful, intelligent editing.

When I see assumptions stated as facts in newspaper articles I find myself opening a new page and googling the claim. (Yes, I read most of my news online. If The Free Press stopped printing tomorrow, I wouldn't miss the paper edition.)

The article tells us, "Unlike most baby boomers, Taylor is quick to embrace new technology and apply it to his bank and personal interests." Hmmm. I seem to be able to come up with quite a list of tech-savvy boomers: Richard Branson, Steve Wozniak, Eric Schmidt, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates. Maybe its just me, but I know a lot of tech-savvy boomers. I read that by the end of 2009 nearly 47% of baby boomers were actively maintaining a profile on Facebook. When I think of my Facebook contacts, this sounds quite plausible.

When you think of new technology do you think iPad? You should. According to Gizmodo and others, "The iPad is for old people."

I don't know about you, but when I think about a man as bold and creative as David Taylor I am not at all surprised to learn that he "is a pilot who designed his own plane, a mechanic who owns seven motorcycles, a techno-geek who built his own computer and a biology graduate who majored in fisheries." When the paper tells me that this is "not exactly the skill sets you'd expect", I beg to differ.

Taylor has an outstanding resume. Let's take a look at another CEO's background, say Paul Tellier, a man who has been president and CEO of both Bombardier Inc. and Canadian National Railway Co. In a Canadian Business Online article Tellier reveals:

"I couldn't stand high school — it had too many rules, some not logical. After I failed a year, my dad put me in boarding school. I couldn't stand it either, so I quit and stayed on after Christmas break as a ski patrol at Tremblant. The pay wasn't too bad, something like $5 or $6 a day, plus room and board. But my father thought I was in school. When he found out I wasn't, we had a conversation."

Compare David Taylor's skill set to other successful CEOs and Taylor's background seems perfect. If he starts another business, I'd consider investing. (And I'd keep an eye on Paul Tellier, too.)

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