Shareholders of the Ottawa Tennis and Lawnbowling Club turned out en masse at the annual general meeting on February 26, 2015, where they voted to defeat a slate of candidates who favoured moving the club toward a for-profit model.
On the Monday and Tuesday before the meeting, more than 100 tennis club members bought shares in a last-minute rally to defeat the slate of candidates put forward by Mr. Ian Macdonald. Mr. Macdonald, who holds shares in the club dating back to 1939, had formed a “1939 Shareholders Protective Committee” and had been engaged in his own concerted effort to gather proxies in support of his favoured candidates.
Current club members are entitled to buy one 1989-issue share per member. The “1989” shares are in a different category from the “founding shares” issued in 1939.
According to reliable sources, due to the number of proxies held by Mr. Macdonald, the vote would have been "too close to call," if 103 members had not stepped forward to buy “1989” shares earlier this week, and if existing “1989" shareholders had not made the effort to attend the meeting or assign their proxies to those who could attend the meeting. It’s also worth noting that several "1939" shareholders made a special effort to deliver their proxies to the Share Secretary and vote against Mr. MacDonald's slate.
The club has operated for many decades as a ‘not-for-profit’ organization, with share capital. However, due to changes in the Ontario law which are expected to come into force in 2016, this structure will no longer be permitted, and the club will have to choose between becoming a for-profit corporation with shareholders, or a not-for-profit entity, without shareholders. Mr. Macdonald and his supporters feel that the “1939” shareholders should not have to give up their shares, and therefore that the club should choose the for-profit route. By contrast, the slate of candidates endorsed by the outgoing Board of Directors, and elected last night to form the new Board, leans toward the not-for-profit model.
It is unfortunate that the change to the Ontario law means the club is forced to face this divisive issue. Speaking personally, I hope that some of the "1939" shareholders can be brought into this process and that an outcome will be achieved that ensures the club will continue as a not-for-profit, member-run, community-based club for many, many years to come.
The members elected to the new OTLBC Board of Directors are:
Enzo di Chiara
Members who missed the opportunity to buy a share before the board meeting will have the chance to buy a share when the club opens this summer. Ratification by 2/3 of shareholders will eventually be necessary to approve the restructuring of the club.