Kevin O'Leary

Kevin O’Leary has gone global (CBC Photo).

Kevin O’Leary and Bruce Coxon are out as hosts of CBC’s Dragon’s Den TV program and Mike Wekerle and Vikram Vij are in (CBC story).

O’Leary has been hosting the show since it came to Canada in 2006.

With his double duty in America as a co-host on ABC’s Shark Tank, and almost daily appearances on CBC’s The Lang and O’Leary Exchange, O’Leary’s departure from The Den has only been a matter of time.

But O’Leary has also been the heart of the show since it first aired, and leaves some big shoes to fill, both on the personality front, and also in terms of his financial muscle.

Enter Mike Wekerle.

Mike Wek

Difference Capital CEO Mike Wekerle (BNN Photo)

I was practically floored when I woke up to the news this morning that Canadian trading legend Mike Wekerle would replace O’Leary on the reality TV / venture investing program.

Wekerle’s nearly three decades long career as a trader on Toronto’s Bay Street is unparalleled.

If you had a big block of stock in a hot company to sell during the late 80’s, 90’s, or 2000’s, Mike Wekerle was the guy you would call to find a buyer.

He took RIM, the Blackberry maker, public in 1997.

He convinced Rob McEwen to merge his Goldcorp with Ian Telfer and Frank Giustra’s Wheaton River Minerals in 2005, creating what is now the world’s second largest gold producer by market cap.

Giustra once told me there is no better man at getting institutional investors to make a move than Mike Wekerle. There was no better shareholder to have in a deal.

Now he’s CEO of Difference Capital (TSX:DCF), an investment and advisory firm that’s made a big bet on Canada’s technology sector.

He’s also notorious for his hard living.

Known to many as simply “The Wek”, Michael Wekerle, 50, is covered in tattoos and rarely uses the buttons on his shirts.

He’s been known to hang from the chandeliers of bars and restaurants.

There’s been more than one regrettable drunken outburst (pot calling the kettle black here). But that hasn’t stopped Mike Wekerle from being one of the most successful and liked guys around.

Other media outlets are citing his strong relationships with Canadian tycoon Seymour Schulich, and investor Rohit Sehgal. He’s also a pal of Lukas Lundin, head of the Lundin Group of natural resources companies.

The fact that the wild man of Canadian business, and arguably its most effective salesman, will be in living rooms across Canada, is pretty great. Hopefully he can share some of his wisdom with the public and breathe some new life into the show.

Sources tell me this was a big decision for CBC. They apparently made Wekerle sign a code of conduct, a first for them. No more hanging from chandeliers, Michael.

The ultra fast talking Wekerle is also apparently in speech therapy, working to slow himself down.

I hope CBC allows The Wek to let his hair down a little bit on the program… A few after hours segments certainly would be interesting.

Perusing his Twitter account, I found a link Wekerle shared to a Toronto Life profile which discusses the tragic death of his wife in 2010, and I’m reminded that this Canadian business giant remains a vulnerable man.

While I realize a guy like The Wek is a reality television producers dream, I hope he gets more out of CBC’s Dragon’s Den than it gets out of him.


Related: Meet New Dragon Michael WekerleMike Wekerle’s Dream Team Is Positioning Itself For A Big Score In Tech

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