Ian Watson was born in Scotland in 1942 and moved to Canada when he was eight.
He had entrepreneurial tendencies even at a early age. At the age of 12, he not only had a paper round to deliver the Toronto Star, but he also had three other boys working for him. When he was 14, Ian had another profitable enterprise – he arranged weekly dances for teenagers at the Keswick Arena, in Lake Simco.
Ian’s business career started with the Canadian brokerage and investment firm Midland-Osler Securities. He began as a trainee, became a Research Assistant, then Research Analyst and moved from Toronto to Edmonton, Alberta, to be the Assistant Manager of the branch dealing with individual and institutional accounts. After two years, Ian became the highest producing broker in the firm. He moved to Vancouver to join Cochran Murray & Hay Limited (now CIBC Wood Gundy), as a Director. He was in charge of covering institutional investors for debt and equity. Ian once again became the firm’s largest producer of business. At this time, he persuaded Donald Getty, who subsequently became the Premier of the Province of Alberta, to enter politics and became his Finance Chairman. Five years later Ian left Canada, relocating to London, where he was in charge of the European business for Fry Mills Spence subsequently merged with Burns Brothers, to become Burns Fry Limited (now BMO Capital). At Burns Fry Ian became one of the five Executive Committee members who were the largest shareholders and were responsible for overall strategy. He resigned in 1980 to travel with his recently married wife, Victoria, to discover what else the world had to offer besides investment banking.
In 1982, Ian decided to invest in gold mining projects. He put out the word that he was looking for gold deposits that were not yet fully recognised by financial markets. When an attractive opportunity showed up he contacted the well-known British investor, Jim Slater. They got on well together and agreed to take on the development of a new gold mining company. It took ten days to complete the first transaction on the basis that $20m would be needed for the new company, Centennial Minerals. The $20m was quickly obtained. As part of the negotiations, if it raised $100m, Centennial Minerals would earn a 50% interest in the Montana Tunnels mining project. After further development of the deposit, Ian arranged a loan of $120m from The Bank of America. Three years later the company was sold to Pegasus Gold for a substantial profit.
During the period 1982-2002, Ian invested with Jim Slater in a number of different ventures ranging from timeshare salmon fishing in Scotland, a commodity brokerage business, heavy oil in the USA and a company that arranged a worldwide Papal television broadcast known as ‘A Prayer for World Peace’. Ian also invested in a telephony business in France, the USA, Mexico and the Caribbean.
In 2003, Ian believed that the prices of gold and other minerals would rise sharply due to increasing demand from China and the developing world. Although China’s growth was picking up at a breathtaking pace, it was not easy for foreigners to invest. Ian had the idea that the best way to take commercial advantage of China’s growth would be to invest in the things that China wanted – gold, copper, molybdenum and uranium were some of the obvious targets.
Ian then formed Shambhala (soon to become Galahad Gold) and Jim Slater joined him to help with its development. Ian also called on two other members of the Centennial team – Morris Beattie and Brian Mountford. During the next few years the Galahad Gold team made four substantial acquisitions. In early 2008, Galahad’s investments were sold and the proceeds were returned to shareholders. Over its four year life, Galahad enjoyed a 66% per annum IRR.
In 2008, Ian Watson and Jim Slater founded Agrifirma Brazil (now Genagro) to acquire farmland in Brazil. They shared the belief that there would be increasing world demand for high-quality foodstuffs and that Brazil is ideally positioned to satisfy this given its excellent soil, weather, abundance of water and highly-trained and able people.
In August 2009, Ian invested in Skygold Ventures (now Spanish Mountain Gold) in British Columbia, Canada. Ian and his family trust have acquired an 11.46% shareholding. In March 2011, Ian was appointed Chairman of Spanish Mountain Gold.
Ian has extensive interests in charitable organisations. From 1987–1991 he was Chairman of the Global Board of The Hunger Project. From 1999–2004 he was chairman of The Institute of Noetic Sciences. More recently in 2009, Ian became Chairman of PYE Global, Partnership for Youth Empowerment. He is also the Executive Producer of a TV documentary on Forgiveness.
Ian continues to seek investment opportunities and spends his time with his wife, Victoria, between British Columbia, Canada, and London. Ian and Victoria have one daughter, Lucinda. They intend to return to live in Canada in a few years time.