Bill Doyle is going down market.
After fending off accusations that that his company wasn’t Canadian enough, the chief executive officer of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. has become a property owner in the province again – part of the company’s so-called “Pledge to Saskatchewan,” made during its defence against BHP Billiton Ltd.’s hostile takeover bid. But this time, there is no mansion along the South Saskatchewan River for Mr. Doyle, who is one of Canada’s wealthiest CEOs.
Instead, he has opted for a 1,000-square-foot condo in a 27-year-old building in Saskatoon, which he bought days after BHP’s $38.6-billion deal was turned away by the federal government. The estimated value of the property: $308,000, according to the city’s land titles registry.
The transaction allowed the Chicago native to stand before the Saskatoon’s chamber of commerce last week and proclaim himself a citizen of the city, as he reiterated a series of promises to the provincial government that included the relocation of several senior executives from Chicago to Saskatoon before the end of March.
The pledge was made in October as the company waged a public relations battle with Australia-based BHP, and included a promise to hire more workers in the city as well as continue donating to local causes. It helped secure an ally in Premier Brad Wall, who became the harshest critic of the takeover.
While the city’s tax registry states that Potash Corp. is responsible for the property taxes, senior director of corporate and government relations Tom Pasztor said the money is coming out of Mr. Doyle’s pockets.
Mr. Doyle earned $9.6-million in 2009, including stock and options, according to Potash’s most recent annual report.
“Because he travels 200 days a year, he pays in advance, and he does that by paying the money to his secretary,” Mr. Pasztor said. “Whether it’s taxes, phone or cleaning he doesn’t want to come back to the condo and find himself in arrears. It just works out best to stay on top of his bill payments this way.”
Mr. Doyle first needed a place to live in Saskatoon in 1999. He had just been appointed CEO of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, and agreed with the company’s board when it suggested he could better do the job if he moved from Chicago. He built a 6,000-square-foot mansion on the banks of the South Saskatchewan.
His residency didn’t last, however, as he moved his family back to the more familiar Chicago within a few years – a decision that remained a sore point for years with provincial politicians. He has maintained a rental in Saskatoon since then, the company said.
This time, his ambitions were scaled down – rather than finance another massive residential project, he bought the comparatively small condo to live in while he’s in Saskatoon. Given his heavy travel schedule and the fact that his three children are grown, Mr. Pasztor said, the condo made sense.
The sale was conducted privately, so it was not listed on the Multiple Listing Service. The deal closed in mid-November. The last time the condo was sold through the MLS – in 2000 for $114,900 – the condo was described as an “immaculate eighth floor unit overlooking the Saskatchewan River … very bright unit, with a living room large enough for a hide-a-bed.”
Mr. Doyle’s former Saskatoon home – with six bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a wine room and multilevel terraces leading down to the river – sold in 2004 for $2-million at a time when the average home was changing hands for just over $100,000.
Saskatoon has been one of the hottest real estate markets in the country over the last decade. ReMax reported recently that house prices increased 9.2 per cent on an annually compounding basis over the last decade, as the province’s resource boom fuelled strong economic growth.
“Investors should return to [Saskatoon] in increasing numbers next year, snapping up well-priced condominium and single-family properties,” the brokerage said in its 2011 outlook.
The city’s housing market is still relatively inexpensive compared with other Canadian cities, with the average resale price hovering around $301,000 in January. The national average was closer to $350,000, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.
Almost 10 years after Mr. Doyle’s mansion sale caused a stir for its million-dollar-plus price tag, there’s no shortage of luxury available to those looking for a higher-end home in Saskatoon – there are 14 listed for more than $1-million on the MLS, including a 7,000-square-foot waterfront estate listed for $2.5-million.