“People in Alberta and their sense that this trail of gold leading to prosperity would run forever, that’s where the delusions set in.” – Brett Wilson

Brett Wilson was Alberta’s Business Person of the Year in 2008, a “transition” year for the accomplished entrepreneur and philanthropist. He had just stepped down as CEO of FirstEnergy Capital and, like most, felt the impact of that year’s economic downturn. “I was in scramble mode,” Wilson says. “I was trying to run a life with no money, so to speak. And I only exaggerate a little bit.” Eight years later, that statement seems impossible, as Wilson quickly gained recognition from his stint on seasons three, four and five of CBC’s Dragons’ Den. He’s now considered one of the most successful businessmen in the country. “I didn’t go on the show to be recognized at every airport and gas station in Canada, but it happened,” Wilson says. “It was really a platform.” Dragons’ Den became a CBC audience favourite and won Gemini awards two out of the three seasons Wilson was on. Since leaving the show in 2011, Wilson has used his newfound brand to speak at conferences, universities and high schools, celebrating entrepreneurship across Canada, and writing his book Redefining Success: Still Making Mistakes, published in 2012. While he is recognized as a television personality and an oil and gas investor, Wilson wears many other hats. He owns significant farmland in his home province of Saskatchewan, has an enormous real estate play in Kelowna and enjoys investing in professional sports teams. The most notable in that category are interests in the Derby County Football Club of England’s second-tier soccer league and the NHL’s Nashville Predators – a team he’ll cheer for even if they’re up against his hometown Calgary Flames. “I always say my heart is with the Flames, but my heart is with Nashville and so is my wallet,” Wilson says. “And quite frankly in sports, wallet trumps heart.” That’s not to say Wilson has forgotten his roots. As a philanthropist, Wilson established the Wilson Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence at the University of Saskatchewan in 2007 and the Wilson Centre for Domestic Abuse Studies at the Calgary Counselling Centre. Wilson will always be a prairie boy at heart, but he has been frustrated with the performance of our economy, and of our past two governments. “People in Alberta and their sense that this trail of gold leading to prosperity would run forever, that’s where the delusions set in.” But the solution? Not diversification, that’s for sure. “I hate, I HATE the word diversification,” says Wilson. “The thought that we should be Silicon North makes no sense to me at all.”

The Year that Was 2008

Alberta’s Population 3.5 million

Crude oil hits $147 a barrel