He was a reluctant nominee, but Peter Rozee of Teck Resources Ltd., has been named the Western Canada General Counsel of the Year for 2011.
Over the past 10 years Rozee, who is senior vice president commercial and legal affairs at Teck Resources, has been involved in a number of large transactions, including the company’s $14.8-billion purchase of the Fording River coal mine and its $825-million sale of its stake in the Waneta hydro-electric dam.
Rozee has been with the mining company since 2001. Prior to that, he was general counsel with mining company Inmet Mining Corp. Before going in-house, he was in private practice with Torys LLP. He was nominated by François Tougas of McMillan LLP.
“He’s smart, humble, and easy to work with. It’s a wicked combination,” says Tougas, noting Rozee originally declined to be nominated. “This is a guy who drives M&A deals, co-ordinates counsel, and does a lot of the legal work himself. He’s operating at a whole different level than most GCs. A lot of GCs look like traffic cops. They get in litigation problems and then decide whom it should go to. That’s not the way Peter operates. His footprint is all over that place.”
Tougas nominated Rozee for the Business Achievement Award and he was ultimately chosen as Western General Counsel of the Year based on the nomination. This was the second annual Western Canada General Counsel awards, which take place every two years. The awards were presented at a dinner on Nov. 7 in Vancouver at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Rozee oversees a department of 11 lawyers spread across offices in Canada, the United States, and Chile.
“We’ve grown the department over the last several years as the business has grown, partly as a consequence of some of the acquisitions we’ve done over the last few years,” says Rozee. “In certain areas, we have brought more work in-house but that really hasn’t been the driver for growing the department.”
Lisa Skakun, general counsel at Coast Capital Savings Credit Union, took home the Western Canada Tomorrow’s Leader award.
As the first in-house counsel for Coast Capital, Skakun started the company’s legal department from scratch two years ago. Following one of the Coast Capital business values to provide simple financial help, Skakun took it to heart when evaluating what her department could contribute to the brand. She worked to make the credit union’s legal documents more user friendly by, for example, paring down its mortgage documentation to eight pages in plain language from 37 pages.
“To be seen as a strategic business partner in-house — that is my goal,” says Skakun. “Then it’s to get our outside counsel on board with that, too. They need to be a strategic business partner and deliver their products in an innovative way.”
Skakun articled at Stikeman Elliott LLP and returned to Vancouver to work at Farris Vaughan Wills & Murphy LLP. She left the firm to go in-house at a startup called Xantrex Technology Inc. in the solar power industry and was involved in several acquisitions the company made and the eventual sale of the business to Schneider Electric. After the sale, she became Schneider’s Canadian counsel for its Canadian companies.
She started thinking about going back into private practice but got the call from a recruiter to see if she was interested in becoming the first in-house counsel for Coast Capital.
Other nominees in the Tomorrow’s Leader category included Evan Johnston of the Churchill Corp.; Cam Proctor of Daylight Energy Ltd., Steven Tam, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority; Christopher White of Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co.
A lifetime achievement award was presented to Jim Emmerton of the British Columbia Law Institute.
The winner of the Business Achievement award was James Ludlow of True North Sports & Entertainment Ltd. for his work in bringing the Atlanta Thrashers NHL hockey team to Winnipeg.
Curtis Serra of Suncor Energy Marketing Inc. won the Commodities Deal of the Year award. Serra led the legal team at Suncor in completing its strategic alliance with Total E&P Canada Ltd.