Michael Wekerle

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Toronto’s 50 Most Influential: the people who changed the city in 2014

Toronto's 50 Most Influential

It’s been a big year in the corridors of power, with an infusion of ambitious new leaders in the city’s most influential institutions. Here, our annual ranking of political rainmakers, Bay Street moguls, real estate gurus, major league sports stars, celebrity chefs, culture czars, and everyone else who matters now. In a nutshell: the people whose smarts, connections and clout are changing Toronto as we know it.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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The El Mocambo may not be closing, after all

(Image: Robert Taylor)

(Image: Robert Taylor)

On the very day the El Mocambo was supposed to be hosting its farewell show, the National Post reports that the legendary club has been rescued by a buyer who plans to keep the place open as a music venue indefinitely. Neil Warshafsky, the property’s listing agent, wouldn’t tell the Post the buyer’s name, but the rumour (as yet unconfirmed) on Twitter is that the mysterious investor is Michael Wekerle, a Bay Street mogul who was recently added to the Dragon’s Den roster, and who can never return to a certain hotel in Arkansas. (We profiled him last year.) Before this last-minute development, El Mocambo co-owner Sam Grosso had told reporters that he’d sold the property conditionally to a buyer who wasn’t in the music business—someone unlikely to leave the storied building as-is. Until a few days ago, the El Mo’s famous palm tree sign was up for grabs on eBay, but Grosso put a stop to the auction after hearing the pleas of would-be preservationists.

UPDATE: The CBC confirms that Wekerle is the buyer. He has put a deposit on the property, and the sale is expected to close in January.

The Informer

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The Oracle of Bay Street: finance bad boy Michael Wekerle is back, and his new firm is already the talk of Toronto

Michael Wekerle’s wild lifestyle got him kicked out of the firm he helped build. Now he’s back and running a merchant bank that promises to make a lot of people very rich

The Oracle of Bay Street: Michael Wekerle is back on Bay Street to make a lot of people very rich

Wekerle bought his 80-hectare Caledon compound from the retired senator Trevor Eyton

When a video game player loads NBA 2K13, say, or Madden NFL on his Xbox, he’s invited to join a social media platform where he can play online against other gamers for money and prizes. The platform, which was developed by the Toronto company Virgin Gaming, is poised to become the Facebook of the gaming world. But, until recently, chances were good that Virgin would go the way of many promising Canadian tech companies and get scooped up by foreign multinationals, decamp for the U.S. or simply die due to a lack of financing.

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The Dish

Restaurants

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Mark Wahlberg is opening a burger shop at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel

The celeb restaurateurs with their mother, Alma Walberg, at the launch of the Boston Wahlburgers (Image: Marc Andrew Deley/FilmMagic)

Wahlburgers, a fledgling burger chain from brothers Mark, Donnie and Paul Wahlberg, is bringing tater tots, triple-patty burgers and something called Wahl sauce to a new space at the SoHo Metropolitan Hotel in early 2014. The original Massachusetts restaurant, which opened in 2011, made headlines last year for a mismanagement lawsuit, a drunk driving charge against the company’s CEO and a yet-to-air reality series about life behind the grill. Toronto banker Michael Wekerle was an early investor in the restaurant and a key player in setting up the Canadian expansion. Mark Wahlberg has a longstanding affection for Toronto: the former Funky Buncher bought a $12 million Yorkville penthouse two years ago and credits the city with saving his life on 9/11. All three brothers will be in town on September 9th for a Wahlburgers launch party at the Soho Met. [National Post]