As it turned out I didn’t have to become a soda jerk at Kresge’s. As a matter of fact, I received a job offer before I even let anyone in Toronto know that I was coming back.
The same day that I formally resigned my partnership at R. D. Manning & Company I got a telephone call from Don Beach. He was calling on behalf of a head-hunter who was looking for a president for the World Hockey Association. Don said the job was very likely mine if I wanted it. It took me about two seconds to say no. The position was actually filled by a guy from Coopers & Lybrand in Toronto; I think his name was John Grey.
But I did tell Don that I had resigned from the Manning firm and planned to return to Toronto at the end of August. When he learned that I had no definite plans he asked me if I wanted him to raise the possibility of rejoining Coopers & Lybrand. Although I didn’t feel completely comfortable with the prospect I told him to go ahead. He called back a few days later with a very strange proposal. He said that the management of the firm didn’t want me back immediately, but if I set up my own practice they would send me personal financial clients for “a little while” after which I would merge my practice with them and become a partner again. I guess they felt I should do some penance for leaving in the first place. I declined.
I then called Dave Matheson. As mentioned in earlier articles, Dave was a tax partner at the law firm McMillan Binch whom I had met when we were both taking the CICA In-depth Tax Course. Dave and I had become good friends, a friendship that’s lasted to this day. He was one of the people who had suggested that the move to PEI was not a good one. This was not the first time, nor the last time, that I didn’t follow sound advice from Dave. Anyway, he was delighted to hear that I was coming back to Toronto, and when he heard about my decision not to accept the terms of a return to Coopers & Lybrand he said I should get in touch with a chap by the name of Ron Strange at Touche Ross (now Deloitte & Touche). Ron had recently become the managing partner of their Toronto office and was looking to beef up the practice.
Coincidentally, Ron had been at Clarkson Gordon in the summer of 1965 when I spent my two months there. Although neither of us remember meeting then, we had both heard of each other. Ron had left Clarkson Gordon to join Touche Ross in Nassau and I, of course, left to get into the tax field. We were both slightly notorious for having, on our own volition, left the most prestigious accounting firm in the country. I don’t remember whether I called Ron or asked Dave to have Ron call me, but Ron and I soon had a very cordial conversation which ended with my agreeing to meet with him on my next trip to Toronto.
It became very clear early in our first meeting that he had a wicked sense of humour and a large dose of irreverence for pompous people and ideas, two characteristics that perfectly matched mine, so Ron and I got along well right from the start.. Ron said he’d love to have me join the firm in Toronto and wanted to bring in the head of the Toronto tax practice to float the idea past him. He made a telephone call, turned to me and said, “He will be here shortly.” In less than a minute there was a knock on Ron’s door and the head of the Toronto tax practice walked in. Before Ron had a chance to make any introductions a conversation along the following lines took place.
Me: “Russ! Long time, no see; how are you?”
Russ: “Lyman! What are you doing here? Please tell me Ron has talked you into joining us.”
I had first met Russ Disney in the fall of 1965 when he was Chairman of the Ontario Institute’s taxation committee and I subsequently served with him for about five or six years.
Ron said something like, “Jesus, Russ, now we’ll have to give him more units (partners’ share of the firm profits) than I wanted to. Couldn’t you restrain yourself just a little bit?
We all had a good chuckle, shook hands and the deal was made. I would be joining the Toronto tax department of Touche Ross on Tuesday, September 2nd. There was one more amusing event before I actually signed the partnership agreement. Bringing in a partner at the senior level that Ron and I had discussed had to be approved by the Management Committee. We had arranged that I would meet with three of the more senior members the next evening for dinner.
Because it would be almost six months before I actually joined Touche, Ron wanted our deal to be kept a secret until then so that maximum exposure for the firm could be obtained when the announcement was made; so, they decided the dinner should be rather clandestine. Because of the nature of my clients, my radio and TV activity, and my writing (none of which had diminished while in PEI), they decided it should take place at a private club. They chose the Albany Club, the bastion of Toronto Conservatism, which is still located at Church and King.
The next night I made my way to the Albany Club. Ron met me in the lobby where we were soon joined by Touche Ross’ chairman, John Orr (whom I knew from my Ontario Institute activity), and two other members of the management committee that I had not met, Joe Martin and Sandy Aird. Joe Martin, who, I soon learned, was a mover and shaker in the Conservative Party (he was a former aide to Manitoba Premier, Duff Roblin), was a member of the Albany Club and was hosting the dinner. Because the purpose of meeting at the Albany Club was to keep it a secret, I was surprised when we didn’t retire to a private room but rather went right into the crowded main dining room. I thought for a moment about pointing out that the odds were pretty good someone there would recognize us and put two and two together. But as I thought the whole secrecy issue was silly anyway, I didn’t say a word.
Through the course of the evening we had a number of people drop by our table to say hello, including Premier Davis, future Mulroney cabinet minister Barbara McDougal, a couple of prominent tax lawyers and at least three senior partners of other major accounting firms. Of course, when one or more of us weren’t known by the visitor, introductions were made all around. I think it was fair to say that the cat was well and truly out of the bag.
It made no difference, though. Touche Ross still made an announcement when I joined the firm and got some publicity out of it. (Accounting firms still weren’t allowed to advertise.)
So I was back where I belonged: back in Toronto, back with a major accounting firm, and not working as a soda jerk at Kresge’s.