An adopted Winnipegger who led the controversial Crocus fund and helped reshape the city’s downtown has died.
Sherman Kreiner died on Canada Day at Health Sciences Centre at age 66 after a battle with leukemia.
Kreiner was the former head of the Crocus Investment Fund, as well as numerous social justice initiatives in Winnipeg and his native Philadelphia.
"He’s a great loss to the community because he was a person of ideas and energy, and very deep social commitment," said Lloyd Axworthy, who met Kreiner in the early 2000s.
Crocus was a labour-sponsored venture fund launched in the early 1990s that helped develop properties such as Bell MTS Place, as well as firms such as Mondetta and Canada Corp.
But the fund collapsed in 2004, after a large amount of investors collected their returns, leaving not enough capital to keep it going.
Roughly 34,000 Manitobans had invested more than $150 million in the fund before a 2004 writedown that froze any new investments. The move prompted angry protests and heated debates in the legislature, as investors lost a large chunk of their savings.
The fund’s managers blamed the scandal on meddling by bureaucrats and the former NDP government, who chalked up the issues to infighting among the company directors.
In 2005, an auditor general’s report largely blamed Kreiner and two other executives for the fund’s issues.
Kreiner contested the findings, and complained his testimony wasn’t reflected in the report, prompting him to sue the auditor general. His complaints led to an overhaul in how Manitoba conducts audits.
Axworthy was president of the University of Winnipeg when Kreiner resigned, and picked him shortly after to run the university’s Community Renewal Corp. (UWCRC).
"He took some really bad knocks," Axworthy recalled. "I couldn’t think of anyone more creative and hard-working than him."
During Kreiner’s 14 years leading the UWCRC, the institute created mixed-income housing, daycares and centres for campus life.
Axworthy recalls Kreiner turning the university’s food services from an unpopular, greasy canteen to a social enterprise focused on organic and fresh food.
"Sherman was a doggedly committed advocate for social and economic justice," said Jeremy Read, UWCRC chief operating officer, speaking moments before attending Kreiner’s funeral on Friday.
"He had an ability in his humour to disarm people, even in difficult conversation."
Axworthy recalled that even though Kreiner wasn’t feeling well, he was working on a book about social enterprises and how to get more conscious businesses into the market.
"I’m hoping that book comes to publication, because the parts he read out to me were just brilliant. Let’s just say: we’re still going to hear from Sherman Kreiner."
— with files from Dan Lett
Updated on Saturday, July 6, 2019 at 10:11 AM CDT: Headline fixed.