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The Brass Ring: Power, Influence and the Brascan Empire - Patricia Best

John Hjorth

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For those interested:

Was just looking at my old "Brascan" file and was able to recuperate this:



Not terribly informative if you are in an investigative mood but the 2004 article gives perspective on the "transition" and the "partners". Interesting also, thinking of the recent "discount" discussion about BAM, because then, as the article describes, Brascan was trading at a discount, using a sum-of-the-parts calculation. One could say that the discount has closed, at least when referring to what the author meant in 2004.

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Long time ago when I first entered the working world I made a decision that I ONLY wanted to work for this type of company.

I was there to learn the business, intended to learn from the best, and I wasn't shy in asking. In Canada that's a very short list of public companies, and a BIGGER list of private companies. While there's a material opportunity cost to working for these firms, if you can make your case - you'll get to do a lot more, and on your own terms. Practice for later.


They are all very 'connected', very classy, and all have strong cultures - good and bad.

But the higher up you went, and the more 'invested' you became, the harder it was to effect change.

You had to be a young person, use the opportunity to learn your craft, and then leave. 


Ultimately they are long-term greedy versus the short-term orientation of the market, and use their ability to time arbitrage. Hence very similar to the value-investors mantra of buying when out-of-favour and reselling when everyone suddenly loves it.





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Thank you for sharing, SharperDingaan, - much appreciated, actually!,


-I suppose, I'm in some way sniffing around BAM here, actually trying to understand how it has evolved over time to what it is today, trying to get some kind of a feeling of how Brascan is over time the predecessor of BAM ... I'm certainly not there yet. - Still sniffing, grabbing for sources etc., to get an understanding of the whole thing ...




Without Joel's BAM compilation, I would already have been totally lost, thank you, Joel.



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I just finished reading it.  Overall it is worth the read because unlike Berkshire, for which there are dozens of books, there are almost none that mention huge companies that avoid the spotlight like Brookfield.  This is about the Toronto branch of the Bronfmans (the sons of the lesser Seagram's founder, who were not allowed to work in the liquor biz) as opposed to the Montreal Branch (the son's of the controlling founder, who worked in the booze business). It covers Brascan, Edper, Hees, and several other affiliated companies.  There is an org chart in the back of the book because the web of interconnected ownership is hard to keep track of.


The GOOD:  it's a thorough and balanced book.  Neither a puff piece, nor a hit job, it's long and well-researched and give a good history of the founding of the Bronfman's empire until the 1980s.  If the corporate culture at Brookfield remains like the culture back then, I'm glad i'm an investor and that it's a part of the corporate DNA.


The BAD:  because there are so many companies and so many deals, it's hard to keep track of all the players and most of the deals aren't discussed in any depth. Given how large the company is and that the book spans decades, I don't know how to improve that but a deeper dive into a few deals would be nice. There are several side trips into things that don't add a lot (like discussions about their philanthropy and support for the arts), which are okay but not the show I came to see. Also, the book was written by a pair of business journalists, so it's very well researched, but reads like a very long newspaper article.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just finished the book.


It goes back in time pretty far such that it's hard to connect the material in the book to what BAM is today. I didn't see any references of Bruce Flatt but Jack Cockwell is mentioned throughout and I read somewhere (outside of the book) that he chose Bruce for the future.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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