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William Brett Wilson


Born: North Battleford, Saskatchewan


There’s probably no philanthropic figure in the Canadian oil and gas industry as recognizable as William Brett Wilson, co-founder of one of the industry’s iconic investment banks and now a leading supporter of dozens of charitable interests, most of which are focused on either mental health or cancer.

W. Brett Wilson, as he’s known by everyone, was born on Canada Day, 1957, (back then it was known as Dominion Day) in North Battleford, Sask., and he’s never really moved too far from his Saskatchewan roots. He attended the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon (not all that far from North Battleford), where he graduated with a degree in civil engineering, which got him a job with Imperial Oil.

After three years at Imperial Oil, Brett moved on to the University of Calgary, where he earned an MBA in entrepreneurship in 1985 before launching his investment-banking career with McLeod Young Weir (now Scotia Capital). He later co-founded his first investment banking advisory firm, Wilson Mackie & Co., in 1991.

Two years later, Brett started what would be his most successful and enduring energy banking venture, teaming with Murray Edwards, Rick Grafton and Jim Davidson to launch FirstEnergy Capital. He retired from the firm in 2008 as its chair. Since then, he’s launched Prairie Merchant Corporation, a private holding company that invests in energy, agriculture, real estate, sports and entertainment industries, and is currently chair of Canoe Financial, a privately owned investment management firm focused on Canadian resources. His sports interests include ownership in the Derby County FC of the English football league system and the Nashville Predators of the NHL.

While FirstEnergy propelled Brett to the top in the rough and tumble investment-banking world, it can be reasonably argued that he’s done his best philanthropic and mentorship work in the years since he left.

As a dragon on CBC’s popular Dragons’ Den TV series, which he left in 2011, Brett is credited with doing the most deals by a single Dragon in a single season.

His philanthropic efforts, meanwhile, are concentrated in the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan: he established the Wilson Centre at his alma mater in 2007 and has funded the Wilson Centre for Domestic Abuse Studies at the Calgary Counselling Centre.

And in Calgary, if not across western Canada, his June Garden Party is legendary. Over the years, it has raised millions of dollars for a variety of causes, ranging from Operation Eyesight Universal and other blindness-prevention organizations at the 2009 party to mental health advocacy in all its myriad forms at a number of the annual parties: the 2014 event raised $350,000 for three groups addressing mental health; the 2015 party raised $400,000 in support of adolescent mental health; this year’s party, despite the economic destruction of the global oil price collapse, raised more than $400,000 for mental health awareness and another $100,000 to support those impacted by the Fort McMurray wildfires in May.


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