Michael J. Tims, “Tims-ey”, retired from Peters & Co last December where he’d been an investment banker for a long stretch, been chairman for a long stretch. One would expect him to literally take a long stretch on beach, on a golf course, or clip coupons while spreading cheer on corporate and not-for-profit boards.
Is he flamboyant? Not really. His indulgences are Hermes neckties and very nice cheese. At first blush he looks the part of your average pear shaped middle-aged retired investment banker. It seems he’s not finished yet ...
We talked about that phenomenon – of what happens to powerful, successful players when their playing days are over. It is hard to go to the sidelines when you’ve been in the fray so long that it’s such a large part of who you are.
Hanging out with retired folks is fun. Pinning them down requires them to find some free time. In this case, that was very difficult – to find the time. We connected over lunch at his favourite table at the Ranchman’s Club.
His retirement plans? “We’d like to get away, to do something else – one week a month.”
How’s that going?
It seems the leisure life of this gentleman will have to wait a while.
We covered a lot of territory - art, Harvard, growing up, retiring, good cheese, The HaskayneSchool, Hermes neckties, his old pals.
Mike’s new job, Vice-Chairman at Matco Investments. Matco - domain of Ron Mathison’s investing and managing money (think 8th Avenue Place, SOBOW, Calfrac, Western Energy Services, Tesla Geophysical, Matco Capital .. to name a few).
A bit like old lawyers becoming ‘of counsel’? “Not really. This job is different, but the skills are transferable.”
“I’m a resource”, his description of his Vice-Chairman role in a 50+ person shop. The team plays two key roles in the Mathison empire – that of managing strategic investments, and portfolio investments. As a player, from the financing side, of so many of those deals over time, he is intimately involved. He says, “I’m invested in a lot of the same deals, just not to the same extent”.
Which begs this question, “how much is enough”. We talked about a lot of players in the Calgary business community, about similarities to the artist. We expect creative people in the arts to work without a clock, without a retirement age. So, it seems also true for artists in business – the highly creative ones don’t quit because it isn’t work to them.
His move to this new role wasn’t as dramatic as going from lender to borrower, but more specifically from merchant-banker to client-of-merchant banker. Mike explained his long association between Peters & Co. and Ron Mathison of Matco Investments. They had worked together at Peters & Co along with lots of other young turks who’ve gone on to play major roles in wealth creation, business building and philanthropy in Calgary.
Old habits die hard, but he says that he is slowing down. A little. “I’ve changed the alarm to 5:15 but my body still gets me up at 4:30”. After so many years, his wife Rene might expect him to be slowing down to actually spend 40% of his time on personal business, corporate boards and not-for-profit commitments. For now, the other 60% is focused on his new role – not the beach, not the golf course, not globe-trotting travel – a new job. That’s interesting to me. The ‘done well’ fellow who has enjoyed success inside the tent on so many major financings in Calgary and in the oil patch in particular, who would miss it so much if he left.
Over lunch we kidded each other about our respective weight-loss efforts, exercise regimes and agreed we are both ‘doing better’ since we last met.
He did sports in school. He played hockey on the Harvard MBA hockey team. As alumnus at Harvard he is active in co- funding a fellowship there. How did you get to Harvard? “I grew up in Calgary, got my undergrad degree at U of C Faculty of Management (now the HaskayneSchool). I won the gold medal. I applied to law schools in Canada and business schools in the United States. I had lots of opportunities, but knew that if Harvard accepted my application, that’s where I would go.”
It seems Mike’s assurances to Rene that he would slow down and take more time for travel will take a while longer . . .
His career began after graduation from Harvard – 1978, with Wood Gundy in Toronto, student loan debt in tow, where one of the first deals he got to work on was a Dome Petroleum financing. Coming west to be where all that action followed. After 36 years, it seems he’s not slowing down much.
I tried to pry some commentary on politics – especially provincial politics and future leadership of Alberta. Mike declined. I probed. He declined again, explaining that people who sit on government boards don’t comment on things political. That board appointment, is one of which he is very proud and passionate – as Chairman of the NationalArtGallery in Ottawa. We talked about the gallery, art, education.
Discussion continued – and could have stretched well into the afternoon – about his work at the Haskayne School, other boards, Maui (one trip since he ‘retired’), kids, grandchildren, working out with his trainer (recently down 10 lbs.), …. but then we both had to get back to work.
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