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Archive for July, 2011

July 21st, 2011

Trashy British tabs historically a breed apart

Posted by Joan McGuigan

Iconfess, though I know the News of the World scandal is occurring within my business, I watch it unfold as I might also read about cannibalism in a far-flung corner of the planet – it’s interesting as hell, as the repellent often is, but has nothing to do with me, what I do for a living or newspapers as I know and love them.

It was in the early 1970s that I first went to England.

I was still new to the business and went with a girlfriend who was also a rookie hack, both of us having been inculcated in the lore of Fleet Street.

Her parents had settled near Blackpool before emigrating to Canada, so we duly went there to see the illuminations, and better, watch the poor Brits on their annual holidays and who felt compelled to go swimming, pale flesh covered in goose bumps, despite the miserable weather, and who sat about on the cold beach, swaddled in towels and eating prawns out of paper cups.

In all sorts of ways, the scales from our eyes fell away pretty quickly.

What was supposed to be a trip by train turned into a hitchhiking adventure when, on our first night out in a club, we were pickpocketed by a couple of charmers whose lovely accents had rendered us careless (a weakness which in my case remains); we went fell-walking in the Lake District and carried so much food with us that we were frequently passed by the infirm, aged and disabled, and we actually read some of the newspapers we’d heard so much about.

They were pretty much trash even then – the Sun, the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express (it was still a broadsheet I think), NOTW, the Daily Star, and probably more I blessedly forget. Perhaps, back then, these papers also produced good traditional journalism, but I have no recollection of it, or perhaps lacked the will to work through the crap to get to it.

I should say I’m no tabloid snob. No one who worked for and loved the Toronto Sun could ever say that, and I did for many years.

The Sun relied in those days (and still largely does) upon the traditional tab recipe for success – sports, hard news with an emphasis on crime, pretty girls, columnists, snappy headlines – but its collective reporting was as solid as any and better than some.

Reporters gathered the information and had to have sources. Editors usually asked who they were. (There was a notorious case at the Sun, years ago, when this didn’t happen, to the later chagrin of those involved and at a sizable cost to the company.) Notebooks, and in later years, transcripts of taped interviews, would be produced upon request.

In other words, the usual imperfect array of checks and balances – copy editors and on tricky pieces, lawyers, and an internal sea of eyes looking at the copy – worked imperfectly, but pretty well.

Except for the physical format and its political leanings, the Sun was indistinguishable from the then-good, grey Globe and Mail or the then-stolid and earnest Toronto Star.

Now I am no historian, but tabs always seemed different in the U.K., and those which were merely bad when I first read them grew worse, their development perhaps fusing with the advent of full-blown celebrity culture.

More likely, they led the charge as an offshoot of their and their readers’ royals obsession.

NOTW was typical – a steady diet of pain caused, reports of affairs, absurd royals stories (the latest, is Kate too thin and pregnant both?), celebs caught with drugs, other people’s spouses, or otherwise behaving badly.

In that milieu, intensely competitive, it was always improbable that the phone-hacking scandal now rocking the country was ever the work of a rogue reporter or two, as was first claimed. Much more likely was that a great whack of editors weren’t asking their reporters the standard questions (Who is your source? How did you get this?) or that they didn’t need to ask because they already knew.

Either way, phone hacking, blagging (pretending to be someone else), surveillance, the use of private investigators and paying for stories and tips – these aren’t usual or approved practices at newspapers in this country.

What is equally serious, and becoming more apparent by the hour, is how extensive and cosy were the relationships NOTW staff and management forged with police (Scotland Yard’s Nos. 1 and 2 have resigned) and the political establishment. How this awful rag ever came to wield such enormous influence is bewildering.

Seems to me virtually everyone in power knew or ought to have known how it all worked, including the staff at NOTW, some of whom are now bleating about the terrible pressure they were under or how Rebekah Brooks, a former editor and most recently, until her arrest, Rupert Murdoch’s lieutenant, was mean to them.

I’d be stunned if any of this happened at a major Canadian newspaper, not that there aren’t worrisome developments here.

There are, among them a new style of journalism, where the already fallible reporter is at a greater-than-ever remove from his subject, and hires a local – an interpreter, fixer or instant journo handed a video camera – to take the risks not with him, but for him.

That may be a troubling practice (I think it is), but at least it’s not illegal, and is a question for the profession, not the police. Small comfort, but at the moment, in this business, you take it where you find it.

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July 21st, 2011

Where are all the Quebec millionaires?

Posted by Joan McGuigan

Sale bares province’s
‘quiet mediocrity’

As private lakefront properties go, John Hooper’s 17,000-square-foot mansion nestled in the trees of Hudson should have been an easy sell.

GRAND ESTATES AUCTION COMPANY John Hooper sold for $3.4 million in a rare open auction with no minimum bid after he put his estate up for sale three years ago for $6.9 million and received no offer on the home, which has eight bedrooms and sits on 5.4 acres.Eight bedrooms on 5.4 acres of land; two-storey indoor pool and spa; guest house; geothermal heating and cooling; even a charming, if clichéd, secret passage behind a bookcase.

So when the founder of Phoenix International Life Sciences Inc. put the estate up for sale three years ago for $6.9 million, he wasn’t ready for the shock he got. There were no takers.

Some people blame the asking price, saying it was set far too high and wasn’t sufficiently reduced. Others note the location scared away buyers – owning a property off the island of Montreal is frequently a commuting nightmare as traffic congestion rises.

Hooper finally sold his home last week for $3.4 million, resorting to a rare open auction with no minimum bid. The whole ordeal laid bare a naked truth: There simply aren’t a lot of people in Quebec with the means to afford a mansion. In fact, there simply aren’t a lot of people in Quebec with the means to afford half a mansion.

Per capita, there are far fewer rich people in this province than in Ontario. Barely 3.9 per cent of taxpayers earn more than $100,000 a year in Quebec compared with 6.3 per cent in Ontario, according to 2008 revenue department statistics, which are the most recent available. The ranks of the truly moneyed are even thinner.

A hangover of its cultural history and values, today that lack of affluence is also one of the starkest symptoms of a larger problem. Many Quebecers have a deep distrust of wealth and wealthy people. And some of Quebec’s leading business leaders warn that if that doesn’t change, Canada’s second-largest province will slowly slip into what Montreal writer Alain Dubuc calls “quiet mediocrity” – a kind of non-ambitious lethargy that will hurt not only itself but the rest of the country.

“We elevate people who like to keep things small. And we decry companies
that are becoming big.”

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July 21st, 2011

If you don’t know, ask a pro

Posted by Joan McGuigan

Sprouter a Web startup for startups

“If you were learning to play golf, would you want to learn from Tiger Woods or some guy who played in high school?” Sprouter’s website poses to perspective users.

This is the premise of the Canadian startup for startups, a website that features questions from real, information-hungry entrepreneurs answered by a handpicked team of business experts: successful entrepreneurs, A-list investors, and numerous other advisers, including (full disclosure) a certain weekly Canadian entrepreneurship columnist.

Founded two years ago as a general portal for startups by Toronto entrepreneur Sarah Prevette, Sprouter refocused last year on its most popular feature: providing a serious, moderated Q&A forum for entrepreneurs. It now offers its members (registration is free) a rich and robust source of information on all aspects of running a business: from finance and marketing to strategy and business plans. But don’t take my word for it. Read on to see how Sprouter’s insights come in many forms:

Detailed insider knowledge/rules of thumb. How much of your company would you have to give up to raise $250,000 to $500,000 from angel investors? Silicon Valley startup guru Dan Martell has the answer: “Typically if you’re living in Canada, you’ll give up 20% to 30% of your company for that. If you’re in the valley, 15% to 20%.”

Strategic counsel that helps you focus on the big tasks. Toronto product marketing expert April Dunford suggested this strategy to an entrepreneur who has developed a breakthrough product for the shoe industry: “Figure out if there is some way to build a partnership with a company that can bring you to the customers you want to reach. That might be a large retailer, a company that sells to their retailers, or a big brand that has a presence with either the retailers or distributors. I think it would be easier if you could to somehow a more attach established yourself brand Marketing in the market.” tactics from

established pros. When an event planner asked how to drive more traffic to her website, search marketing specialist Ryan Kelly from San Antonio, Tex. offered: “Write compelling content that people want to read, solves their problems, answers their questions. For example, you could write an article like the Top 5 Things That Will Kill Your Event. Don’t feel like you’re giving away any secrets; at the end of the day, people don’t have the time to do what you do, and they will hire Recommended you for it.” resources. In answer to a question about where a startup can go to develop a good website, multiple startup founder Corey Kossack replied: “My favourite easy website builder is” I suspect that’s many miles of bad road summed up in one sentence.

Local resources you may not know. When someone asked online marketing guru Mitch Joel about raising funds for web-marketing firms in Montreal, Joel suggested the entrepreneur consult Start-Up Montreal for leads, and look into the entrepreneur program from “the good folks at YES — Youth Employment Services.”

Simple-sounding mantras that sum up a whole new way of doing business, founded on hard experience. For example, a Sprouter member asked Saul Colt, a Toronto-based word-ofmouth marketer and consultant (FreshBooks, Zipcar), for his best advice on building a brand. His reply: “Treat your customers better than they expect to be treated by a company, and inject a lot of personality in everything you do. I hate to over simplify it, but that is the secret.”

Off-the-wall ideas you might not trust if it came from a friend. Andrews Patricio of Toronto-based BizLaunch is a master of simple, game-changing tactics. When asked how an aspiring franchisor could convince potential franchisees that it’s a serious and profitable business, he suggested offering a money-back guarantee. When a Vancouver retailer with a hard-to-find store in a busy tourist area asked for help drawing traffic, Patricio replied: “Get somebody to dress up as a rabbit and invite tourists into your store.”

Financial Post

❚ Rick Spence is a writer, consultant and speaker specializing in entrepreneurship. His column appears weekly in the Financial Post. He can be reached at rick@rickspence. ca.

  • Article rank
  • 19 Jul 2011
  • The Gazette
  • Rick Spence Growth Curve

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    July 13th, 2011

    Mansion sells for $3.4M

    Posted by Joan McGuigan


    Hudson estate is auctioned off for less than half its original asking price.


    “There’s really nothing in real estate that price can’t fix.”

    A posh Hudson estate initially priced at $6.9 million in 2008 was purchased for less than half that amount Tuesday during Quebec’s first absolute auction.

    GRAND ESTATES AUCTION COMPANY The Montreal-area waterfront estate features an indoor pool, separate guest house and a secret passage.

    The sale of the eight-bedroom, 17,000-square-foot waterfront estate for $3.4 million includes a 10 per cent commissionfortheU.S.-based Grand Estates Auction Co., which organized the event.

    A spokesperson for Great Estates said the Montreal-area mansion, which features an indoor pool, separate guest house and even a secret passage, attracted 23 bidders, while generating more than 500 inquiries and 200 showings.

    Auctions, while popular in the United States and Australia, are a rarity in Canada. An absolute auction – where there is no reserve bid – involving a luxury estate is believed to be unprecedented.

    The auction comes at a time when Canadians are increasingly considering alternatives to real estate brokers when selling their homes.

    Last week, Propertyguys. com Inc., which helps people sell their own homes, joined forces with flat-fee brokerage Realtysellers Real Estate Inc. The merger will help owners outside of Quebec pay a flat fee and list their properties on, which generates the listings for the vast majority of home sales in Canada, the companies say. But market alternatives like auctions and sell-it-yourself websites are unlikely to replace traditional sales by brokers, said Don Campbell, president of the Vancouverbased Real Estate Investment Network.

    “It’s not going to catch fire here,” Campbell said of luxury estate auctions. “It’s too much of a risk to the vendor. In our country, it doesn’t make sense for a vendor to go to auction.”

    While Campbell has heard of cases of B.C. farmlands and foreclosed homes being purchasedinCanadathrough auctions, he wasn’t aware of any previous example of a luxury estate being sold to the highest bidder.

    And unlike the case in Hudson, most auctions in Canada have a reserve bid, or a minimum selling price.

    “I’m really and truly trying to figure out why you would want to sell it in an auction,” he said of the Oakleigh Estate in Hudson.

    Initially listed with Profusion Realty Inc. for $6.9 million in 2008, the home was reduced to $5.4 million after it failed to sell. Louise Rémillard, president of Profusion, an exclusive affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate for the Greater Montreal area, said the sellers wouldn’t lower their price at the time, even though the home had a municipal evaluation of under $3.5 million.

    “There’s really nothing in real estate that price can’t fix,” Rémillard said. “When a listing is priced correctly it sells.”

    The owners of the mansion, John Hooper, 70 and Diane Bradshaw, 65, said they decided to auction off the home they built in 2000 after it failed to sell for more than two years through traditional means.

    With a limited pool of local buyers with the means to buy such an estate, luxury homes often languish for more than a year in Montreal before being sold, brokers acknowledge. An even greater challenge for sellers like Hooper is that sales of luxury homes in Hudson, like other offisland suburbs, have been slow this year, largely because of increased congestion on Montreal-area roads, brokers say.

    This year, the highestpriced home for sale in Hudson was purchased for $825,000, Multiple Listing Service data show.

    Hooper, an entrepreneur and scientist who helped build the now defunct company Phoenix International Life Sciences Inc., could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

    But in an interview last week, Hooper said he was eager to sell the estate so he and Bradshaw could travel the world.

    Rémillard, who specializes in high-end real estate, said she believes the couple sold the home below market value, especially considering that the latest school and property taxes on the estate amount to $41,000 a year.

    The current municipal evaluation of the estate is more than $4.3 million.

    “Had he sold before he wouldn’t have had two years of headaches,” she said. “Forty-one thousand dollars a year will give you a lot of opportunities to travel.”

  • Article rank
  • 13 Jul 2011
  • The Gazette
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    July 13th, 2011

    Mcgill’s law faculty ranks No. 1 in Canada

    Posted by Joan McGuigan
  • Article rank
  • 13 Jul 2011
  • The Gazette
  • KAREN SEIDMAN GAZETTE UNIVERSITIES REPORTER To see the QS rankings, go to kseidman@
  • ‘A source of pride for all Montrealers’

    It might become even harder now to get into the faculty of law at McGill.

    The already competitive university is basking in the glory of a new QS World University Rankings that places McGill’s law faculty 12th best in the world and No. 1 in Canada.

    It’s not entirely bad when the universities beating you have names such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Yale.

    And it says something about a university that can compete on a world playing field with others that have much more money at their disposal.

    “It really shows that this faculty has the highest reputation,” said Daniel Jutras, dean of law at McGill. “It should be a source of pride for all Montrealers that one of its faculties placed so high on a world ranking. After all, the per student budget at McGill is nowhere near what they have at Harvard.”

    The QS university ranking is among the most respected of university rankings. The rankings are obtained from three measures: academic opinion, employer opinion and citations by academics.

    It was the first time there was a ranking of social sciences, which included sociology, statistics, politics, law, economics and accounting.

    In law, 100 universities were ranked.

    While McGill beat the University of Toronto in the law ranking – Toronto was 13th – McGill was bested by its rival in several of the other departments, including sociology and politics.

    Jutras said McGill has several challenges to its program, including the fact students study in both English and French and earn both common and civil law degrees in a comparative and integrated program of legal studies.

    “We are delighted that the exceptional expertise and dedication of Canada’s oldest law faculty has been recognized by QS and those surveyed,” Jutras said.

    He said McGill goes to great lengths to choose the right candidates for its law program, relying not just on numerical evaluations but on an autobiographical essay, letters of reference and interviews.

    “We have chosen a very labour-intensive process to select students,” said Jutras, adding that the ranking may bring even more high-quality candidates to the faculty of law.

    “There is a certain visibility that comes with this.”

    Already only one in 10 applicants makes it into law school at McGill, which has 170 students in its first-year class and gets about 1,700 applicants for those spots.

    The allure is McGill’s great reputation and the opportunity to study at a university that has churned out accomplished law luminaries such as Canadian prime ministers Sir John Abbott and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and justices of the Supreme Court Morris Fish and Marie Deschamps.

    “We are just very proud and happy about what it says about us,” Jutras said. “But different rankings mean different things so we have to be both proud and modest.”

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    July 11th, 2011

    Westmount’s new pool / Arena project “…a done deal”

    Posted by Joan McGuigan

     Please open  the Link on the 11th Page

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    July 11th, 2011

    Shopping around for mortgage pays off

    Posted by Joan McGuigan
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    July 6th, 2011

    Why Boom when you can Zoom?

    Posted by Joan McGuigan
  • Article rank
  • 6 Jul 2011
  • National Post – (Latest Edition)
  • National Post
  • When I was young, and assumed social mores were etched in stone, I feared growing old.

    Back then, “old” meant about 55, my parents’ age when they and many peers began spending winters in Miami. During our annual visits, observing the unchanging routine of their days — poolside gossip, shopping, reading, TV and dinners out — I was chagrined at the disparity between their delight in their good fortune and my revulsion at a similar destiny.

    I am now old, with no prospect in sight of a Florida condo — or even a Montreal one. That’s because my parents were the “old old”, while my generation is the “new old.” I’m not exactly a Boomer, because the usual definition cites the oldest Boomers as post-war and I was born mid-war, but, like my entire cohort, I have been strongly influenced by Boomer attitudes and behaviours.

    More precisely, I ama“Zoomer.” Zoomers are “Boomers with zip.” The neologism was coined by the ultimate Zoomer, Moses Znaimer, born in the same year as I — 1942 — who has almost singlehandedly rebranded the aging process through his visionary media exploits: City TV, MuchMusic, Bravo, Space, Fashion Television and, since 2008, Zoomer Magazine, the dominant print medium for the 50-

    plus demographic in Canada.

    I thought I understood Boomerhood. Turns out my knowledge was superficial. I’ve just read The New Old: How the Boomers are Changing Everything … Again.

    The author, David Cravit, is the executive vice-president of ZoomerMedia in charge of sales and marketing. It is not only his job to understand this demographic, but his passion: this book is an entertaining and enlightening read that goes far beyond the obvious statistics and data. It explains why my parents considered a Miami condo the Holy Grail and I see it as Death’s waiting room.

    All of what follows is “in general”; none of us — with the possible exception of Moses Znaimer — meets all the criteria. Some of us have remained “old old.” I’m mostly “new old” with fat streaks of “old old” here and there.

    Boomers and Zoomers rule! We are responsible for 50% of all consumer spending; we constitute 82% of all households with savings or securities worth more than $100,000; and we buy 80% of all health care products. We’re 60% of voters, and although we’re liberal on social issues, we’re small-c conservative on stuff like smaller government, safe streets, and parallel health systems.

    And we’re justified in believing we’re going to be around for a looong time. A 60-year-old today has a 50% shot at reaching 90. (Know what? I think the Conservative party may also be in power for a looong time.)

    What turns us on? Work, for one thing. Why retire with potentially 30 more years ahead? That describes me and my husband: The thought of retiring appals us both. Look at 65year-old Dolly Parton — still working nine to five.

    Another magnificent obsession is our homes. We account for more than half of all remodelling, and more than 60% of the dollars spent on room additions. Rings true: We are moving into a new house this month, more modern and sleek and youthful than the rambling family home we’ve occupied for 30 years.

    When we travel, we don’t like those old “If it’s Tuesday, it must be Brussels” tours. Travel must enhance our fitness or expand our minds or souls. I have friends who intend to spend a month in a different city every year. Two others are studying creative writing. Another does medical service abroad. Everyone is into self-discovery and new beginnings.

    And sex! Zoomers, especially women, are bold in asking for and getting what they want and deserve.

    But it’s health that is uppermost in our minds. Wellness spas are hot. And Google “discount heart surgery”: you’ll get two million hits. Look for Boomer selfishness to end medicare as we know it: if we can’t get the care we want here, we’ll buy it in India.

    We love new technology, especially toys that enhance independence, and we have none of the brand loyalty of our parents. We have much in common with our adult children and get along well with them.

    You would think that every entrepreneur with a product to sell, every politician with votes to win and every media buying agency with clients to please would be falling over themselves to woo the Zoomer demographic. But most aren’t. They’re pitching to the “youth market” even though “youth” are fewer, poorer, and relatively powerless. The reason they are missing the boat is ridiculously simple, and so is the solution. Read the book to find out.

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