Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and Portfolio Manager
In 1983, at the age of 32, Michael borrowed money to purchase $500,000 worth of Mackenzie Financial stock. Four years later, the stock appreciated seven-fold and Michael used the profits to make his first acquisition - a small Ontario-based investment firm called AIC Limited. At the time, Advantage Investment Counsel (a division of AIC Limited) had assets under management of $800,000. Within 20 years, and at its business peak, AIC grew to more than $15 billion under management. In 2009, AIC’s retail investment fund business was sold to a leading Canadian financial services group.
Upon acquiring AIC Limited in 1987, Michael set about transforming the Berkshire group of companies which became Canada’s largest independent privately-owned financial planning and wealth management organization. The Berkshire group of companies was comprised of a mutual fund dealer, an investment dealer and an insurance services company. Under Michael’s stewardship, Berkshire amassed more than $12 billion in assets under administration by 2007. At that time, Berkshire had grown to form a network of 750 financial advisors operating in 250 offices across Canada. In 2007, the Berkshire group of companies was acquired by a leading Canadian financial services group.
In 2012, through Mandeville Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of Portland Holdings, Michael began assembling a diversified group of wealth management companies that includes: Portland Investment Counsel Inc. (an investment fund manager, portfolio manager, mutual fund dealer and exempt market dealer), Mandeville Private Client Inc. (an IIROC investment dealer) and Mandeville Insurance Services Inc. (life insurance).
Today, Michael remains firmly committed to creating wealth for investors.
In addition to his responsibilities at Portland Investment Counsel Inc., Michael sits on various boards in Canada and throughout the Caribbean.
Banking and Insurance
In 2002, Portland’s interests expanded internationally with the acquisition of National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCB) and its subsidiaries. At the time of purchase, Michael deployed a team with a mandate to improve employee morale, increase customer confidence and modernize the bank’s IT infrastructure. Under Michael’s stewardship, NCB is now the largest bank in Jamaica with cumulative profits of US$1.45 billion from 2004 to 2017. NCB stands today as Jamaica’s largest financial services provider with 37 locations, over 2,500 employees, and offices in Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, the Cayman Islands, and the United Kingdom.
In May 2016, NCB acquired 29.99% shareholding in Guardian Holdings Limited (GHL), the leading insurer in the Caribbean region. GHL subsidiaries include life insurers, health and pension insurers, brokerage services, property and casualty insurers, and insurance brokerage services in Trinidad & Tobago, Curacao, Aruba, the Netherlands, and Jamaica.
In 2005, Portland partnered with Risley Group to form Columbus International Inc. (Columbus), a diversified telecommunications company whose core operating business is providing cable television services, high speed internet access, digital telephone and internet infrastructure services (retail) and the development of an undersea fiber optic cable network as well as the sale and lease of the telecom capacity provided by the network (wholesale). Columbus operates in 22 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. In 2015 Cable & Wireless Communications, Plc (C&W) acquired Columbus. C&W was acquired by Liberty Global in 2016. Michael’s companies hold investments in Liberty Global and its subsidiaries.
Michael has guided Portland through a number of acquisitions in the Caribbean. Among them: the Trident Hotel, Trident Castle, Reggae Beach, and Blue Lagoon, all located in Jamaica.
Michael, along with the Portland Private Equity team, currently manage the Caribbean Basin’s largest private equity vehicle, AIC Caribbean Fund (ACF). ACF is a US$225 million, 2007 vintage growth equity fund. Portland Private Equity also manages the Portland Caribbean Fund II (PCF II) which had a first closing of US$100 million of capital commitments in July 2014 and has a target size of US$250 million. Limited Partners of PCF II include: the private sector arm of the World Bank, European institutional investors, Export Development Canada and other well-known institutional investors. ACF and PCF II invest in key sectors such as telecommunications, financial services and energy generation.
In July 2016, Portland JSX Limited (PJX) had the largest initial public offering (IPO) of ordinary shares ever on the Jamaica Stock Exchange. The IPO provided an exposure that is new to the Jamaican marketplace, as investors were able to diversify their investment portfolio across country, sector and currency. PJX is managed by the Portland Private Equity Team and is a limited partner of PCF II.
Among his many personal accomplishments, Michael has received the Doctor of Laws degree from a number of distinguished universities including: McMaster University, University of Toronto, Northern Caribbean University, Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of West Indies, and York University.
In 2008, Michael was awarded the Order of Jamaica, one of the country’s highest national honours for significant contributions in business and philanthropy.
In 2010, Michael was invited to join the Board of the Trust for the Americas, a dynamic development institution affiliated with the Organization of American States (OAS). The OAS is an organization that, with 35 member countries, facilitates development, security, human rights, democracy and prosperity throughout the Western Hemisphere.
From 2011-2016, Michael held the position of Chancellor of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
In 2013 the Government of Ontario awarded Michael with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and, in 2017 he was appointed to the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour, recognizing individuals whose exceptional achievements have left a lasting legacy in the province, in Canada, and beyond.
In 2016, Michael was appointed Chair of the Government of Jamaica’s newly established Economic Growth Council (EGC), in an effort to bolster economic development. Michael is tasked with leading a team from the private and public sectors, to advise the Government of Jamaica on the adoption of a framework of growth initiatives.
Senior Vice President and Portfolio Manager
Robert Almeida brings a strong business management perspective to the Portfolio Management Team.
Portland Investment Counsel believes strongly that “Understanding” is the key to successful investing and that, as Mr. Buffett states, “I am a better Investor because I’m a Business Person and a better Business Person because I’m an Investor.”
Robert has over 30 years experience, both as an Investor and as a Business Executive. Some specific business experiences that he brings to his role as a portfolio manager are:
- Chartered Accountant with Ernst & Young
- Strategic Development Executive at Loblaw in the 1990’s
- Founding President of President’s Choice Financial
- Executive on CIBC’s US retail expansion team
- Founding Chairman of Amicus Bank of Canada
- Led founding investment in Columbus International Inc., which has become the leading cable/telecom provider in the Caribbean and serves 21 countries
- Director of National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited, the largest bank in Jamaica
- Experience as an investor in and a Director in several private companies.
Robert is also a founding Partner of Portland Private Equity and a Managing Partner of the AIC Caribbean Fund and Portland Caribbean Fund II, private equity funds with capital commitments from institutional investors in Europe, United States, Canada and the Caribbean.
He joined Portland Investment Counsel and affiliates in 2002. As a manager of public and private equity portfolio investments, Robert continues to practice as both, an Investor and a Business Person.
In addition to his CA designation, he also earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree with High Distinction from the University of Toronto.
Chief Investment Officer, Executive Vice President and Portfolio Manager
Chris Wain-Lowe has 35 years of business management and global financial services experience – living and working in four continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, North America as well as the Caribbean, which also embraced corporate experience in the energy, natural resources and utility industries. Chris’ business experiences provide first-hand knowledge and understanding of those businesses in which he now invests. As Head of the Utilities team, Barclays’ Large Corporate Banking (1989-1992), Chris’ team tendered and won most of the syndicated finance, large value leasing and project finance mandates during the UK’s water and electricity privatizations – with Barclays Syndications consequently being awarded by Euromoney magazine as ‘Best European Syndicate Bank’ in 1991 and again in 1992.
As Chief Executive Officer he led Barclays business in Greece, transitioning it to becoming more corporate focused and successfully selling its island retail network to Bank of Nova Scotia (1995). As Chief Executive Officer he led Barclays’ South African operations in Botswana to best in the region from 1997-2000. The Banker magazine ranked Barclays as the ‘Best Bank’ in Botswana and the ‘Best Bank’ in Africa in 2000. During Chris’ three years with the bank, its market capitalization rose to US$300 million from US$80 million – a compound annual growth rate of more than 55%.
As Chief Executive Officer of National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCB), he led the bank from 2000 to 2002. In Chris’ two years with the bank, its market capitalization rose to US$400 million from US$100 million – a compound annual growth rate of 100%.
Upon acquisition of NCB indirectly by Portland Holdings Inc., he joined Portland Investment Counsel and its affiliates in October 2002. As Executive Vice President he promoted the launch and listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange of ten closed-end funds during 2004 to 2007. He is currently the Chief Investment Officer and lead portfolio manager of three mutual funds and three private / alternative funds, namely Portland Private Income Fund, Portland Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund LP and Portland Global Aristocrats Plus Fund. Chris has a BA degree from University of North Wales and an MBA from University of Exeter. He is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers and holds their Financial Services Diploma, placed first in his year (1989) of completion.
Senior Vice President and Portfolio Manager
James joined Portland Investment Counsel Inc./AIC Limited in February 2000. James has 35 years of investment experience including 26 years as a portfolio manager responsible for Canadian and U.S. equities. Investment funds managed by James have received several national awards. In 2019, one of the funds (the “Fund”) was winner of the Canadian Hedge Fund Award for achieving 1st place for Best 5 Year Return in the Equity Focused Category, 2nd place for Best 1 Year Return in the Equity Focused Category and 3rd place for Best 3 Year Return in the Equity Focused Category. In 2018, the Fund won the Canadian Hedge Fund Award for achieving 3rd place for Best 5 Year Return in the Equity Focused category. In 2017, the Fund also received the Private Capital Markets Association of Canada (PCMA) Investment Fund of the Year Award. In addition, Canadian balanced funds lead-managed by James won Lipper Awards in 2018 and 2007 and FundGrade A+ Awards in 2019, 2018 and 2017 for having among the best risk-adjusted performances in their category.
Prior to joining Portland, James was a portfolio manager with Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc. and prior to this was Vice President and Portfolio Manager with Beutel, Goodman & Company Ltd. James also was a securities analyst for nine years culminating in 1992 with being ranked in the Brendan Wood survey of institutional investors as the #1 communications and media analyst in Canada.
James was formerly the treasurer of CFA Society Calgary and previously served for three years as a director of CFA Society Toronto and chairman of its accounting and disclosure committee. James holds a degree in Economics from Trent University and earned his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1986.
Dragos Berbecel has 20 years of experience, both as an investment professional and a business operator. He has devoted the last 10 years to being a student and practitioner of focused value investing. Dragos leverages more than a decade of experience as a marketing and sales executive working in diverse industries in Europe and North America. He played a leading role in starting up a new subsidiary for Syngenta, the largest global agribusiness, in a key European market. He was also instrumental in improving the performance metrics for KBC Tools and Machinery, a top North American industrial distribution company. Having worked with thousands of clients from individual farmers to distributors and large industrial corporations, his ground level understanding of what it takes for a company to be successful in the marketplace has been greatly enhanced.
Dragos joined Portland Investment Counsel in 2008 when he conducted research in the field of investment alternatives with a socially responsible investing mandate and amassed a body of knowledge necessary to introduce the environmental, social and governance performance and risk factors analysis in the firm’s investment process. Since then, Dragos has been involved in developing and managing a number of public equity, balanced and alternative assets investment strategies.
Dragos holds an MBA degree from the University of Toronto, with a major in Finance. He earned a BComm and an MSc in Marketing Management from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, as well as an MA from the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration in Bucharest. He passed the professional accreditation exams to be licensed as a broker/trader on the BSE (Bucharest Stock Exchange) by the Brokers’ Association and the Romanian Financial Institute.
Dragos is a CFA charterholder and has been a member of CFA Society Toronto since 2009.