After a lengthy battle with cancer, the charismatic 52-year-old head of AsiaÆs only remaining true international brokerage firm, died yesterday in the US where he had been receiving medical treatment. He was in the company of his wife and a few close friends.
ôGaryÆs vision, drive and creativity helped build one of Asia's leading brokerage, investment banking and private equity groups. He led and inspired a team that has created a great company and his important role in the development of the financial services industry in Asia will long be remembered. Gary has been a friend and mentor to many and he will be sorely missed,ö CLSAÆs CEO Rob Morrison said in a statement issued last night.
ôIn large part due to GaryÆs ability to motivate and lead some very talented people, CLSA has been able to not only remain fiercely competitive but to continue to thrive as an independent house in an environment where many of its competitors couldnÆt,ö Morrison continued.
Since he co-founded CLSA together with fellow journalist Jim Walker in 1986, Canadian-born Coull has played a big part in helping to attract international investors to Asia, not least through CLSAÆs annual Investment Forum. Known for its impressive selection of speakers as well as a mid-week party that over the past 13 years have featured some of the best pop and rock icons of our time, the Forum attracts over 1,200 of the worldÆs top fund managers and 500 Asian company executives.
As recently as September, Coull attended what was to become his last Forum where, among other things, he led a session on private equity investments.
For his role in bringing foreign capital to Asia and for helping to shape the way investors look at the region, for being instrumental in the launch of an annual survey on the quality of corporate governance in the region and for being one of the first firms to push the India theme - to name but a few reasons - FinanceAsia last month named Coull as one of the top 50 people who have had a significant influence on AsiaÆs financial landscape over the past 10 years.
Recently, CoullÆs focus turned more and more to private equity investments and although still very involved in the broking business, he removed himself from the day-to-day operations of CLSA several years ago in order to focus on building the funds management business as CEO and chairman of CLSA Capital Partners.
ôAlways an innovator, Gary saw the opportunity several years ago for specialist private equity funds that leveraged CLSAÆs research and network to capitalise on emerging demographic themes in Asia which saw CLSA establish a number of these funds,ö Morrison noted.
Commenting for a story earlier this year in AsianInvestor, Coull said: ôPrivate equity opportunities are almost limitless û providing you have the ability to pick the right businesses. For example in China, there are so many entrepreneurs. It is such a big place. Right now, we seek domestic demand plays there, well-managed companies that make and service things.ö
A key driver for his work û whether it related to private equity, brokerage or reporting - was a belief in the power of information and the influence it can have on both news and markets once crafted into a good story. As a result, the leap from his early career in journalism at publications such as The South China Morning Post and the Far Eastern Economic Review into the world of finance wasnÆt that big.
Indeed, a key part of the new brokerage firm he helped start was its independent research that aimed to provide useful information, seek out investment themes worthwhile exploring for the longer term and above all use the information to tell an original story that could add value to fund managers making a living from understanding markets.
None of this has changed (apart from its initial backer Credit Lyonnais having merged with Credit Agricole to create an even more resourceful parent) and CLSA still prides itself on doing business in the interest of investors rather than big corporations.
And Coull continued to follow his visions to seek new frontiers. According to his biography provided by CLSA, in 2002, he led a group of fund managers on a fact-finding mission to North Korea, finding a nexus of potential growth rather than an axis of evil. In 2003 he pushed CLSA to become the first foreign firm to set up a joint venture investment bank in China after restrictions were eased following the countryÆs entry into the WTO.
Morrison will take over CoullÆs responsibilities as chairman of CLSA, while Richard Pyvis will assume the role of CEO of CLSA Capital Partners.
ôGary was a friend, colleague and inspiration to all of us and he will be greatly missed. We will continue to build on GaryÆs vision to take CLSA to the next level and make him very proud,ö Morrison ended the unusually personal release sent out by the firm.
CLSA will organise a memorial service in Hong Kong in the near future. Details will be announced as soon as they are available.
Anyone wanting to send their condolences to Gary's family can do so c/o Laurie Young, CLSA Ltd, 18/F One Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong or [email protected].