Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

CEO, execs terminated at TCIG

Forensic audit ordered due to lavish expenses

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Chief Glenn Hudson (centre) and Chief David Meeches (right). The corporate jet will be sold.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Chief Glenn Hudson (centre) and Chief David Meeches (right). The corporate jet will be sold. Photo Store

The former CEO of Tribal Councils Investment Group Inc., Allan McLeod, and five senior executives have been terminated and the new board, led by chairman Glenn Hudson, chief of Peguis First Nation, is in the middle of an extensive review of the company's operations.

Hudson said the board hopes a new CEO can be found in the next three weeks.

Lazer Grant, the professional services firm, is conducting the executive search and is also performing financial management functions for the corporation until new management is in place.

It is also conducting a forensic audit of the company's affairs that Joel Lazer, the accounting firm's managing partner, said would be completed in about 30 days.

TCIG is an investment firm with holdings in several private and public Manitoba companies, and is the owner and operator of several businesses, including Arctic Beverages, the Pepsi/Frito Lay distributor in northern Canada, a master regional franchise of Famous Dave's restaurant and the first and only Famous Dave's outlet in Canada.

TCIG is owned by the seven tribal councils of Manitoba and generates about $100 million in revenue.

The Free Press has reported on extravagant expenses racked up by senior management in the past several years, including the operation of a cash-draining corporate jet.

Last fall, three of its tribal council shareholders launched legal actions against TCIG, seeking court assistance in gaining greater disclosure for shareholders.

Hudson and David Meeches, chief of Long Plain First Nation and chairman of the Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council and TCIG's new board vice-president, said in an interview Friday the corporation is back on sound governance footing.

"We had lost confidence in the previous management and board," Hudson said. "The governance has now been strengthened and we feel we have restored full confidence in a new board and leadership."

Hudson said previously strained relationships with key partners, including Pepsi and RBC, its main lender, have been restored.

He said they've also met with staff to let them know the company is not going anywhere.

"We have 430 employees and they have let us know that they are all keen to make this an even better company," said Hudson.

In addition to its business partners, TCIG is also in need of creating better relations with the First Nations in Manitoba, many of whom had become disenchanted with TCIG and its management style.

"We have met with various chiefs and councils to re-establish stakeholder ties," Meeches said. "We have reached out to those First Nations and First Nations businesses to re-establish a better relationship where it may have been strained in the past."

Meeches said the legal actions that had been initiated by Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council, West Region Tribal Council and Keewatin Tribal Council will be discontinued.

But according to Hudson, TCIG's response to those lawsuits seeking court-ordered disclosure was what finally led to the actions that resulted in a new board and the termination of former management.

"The original spirit (of TCIG) was to have the seven tribal councils be represented through this company in terms of generating revenue and profits for the best interests of the tribal councils," Hudson said.

After those lawsuits were filed, TCIG attempted to force the dissenting tribal councils to sell their shares, effectively moving TCIG into private ownership.

"I state this openly," Hudson said. "That is what led to changes to our previous management and board."

Hudson said the new board is committed to continue to grow the company that was founded in the early '90s with the help of federal government financing.

He said a strategic review is forthcoming and he could not provide details on specific directions that would be taken.

But he did say that in recent weeks TCIG sold the money-losing Wok Box franchise. Hudson also said expanding its Famous Dave's franchise -- which has exceeded expectations in its first year of operation -- is a strong possibility.

But when it comes to discussing the actions of former management, the new board members said they had nothing to say.

"We are not looking back, we are looking forward," Meeches said. "We are not worried about what happened here historically. It is more important to plan for the future than it is to look back."

Hudson did say the company is seriously considering relocating its head office from the current sprawling suite of offices on the 21st floor of 360 Main St.

As for the corporate jet, Meeches said, "The keys are on the wall and the jet is parked in the hangar."

Part of the review is to figure out a plan to sell the jet.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2013 B6

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