SAIT's 2016 Distinguished Alumnus
"I was the president and CEO of Vermilion Energy, but have since transferred over to chair of the board. We have Casadona Group, which is a family office investment company that invests in commercial real estate and bond and equity funds. It's been going for about five years now and I have been fairly involved in that. Two of my sons are here as well. It's different than what I used to do, but sometimes a change is as good as a rest, as they say.
It took us a long time to get to this point from when I first founded Vermilion. I have been fortunate to generate this level of wealth. It's now about setting up the governance and systems to preserve it and pass it through the generations. It's not just about the money, it's also the emotional and social aspects. It's important that the investment principles are mentored and taught to the kids so they can pass it to future generations. It's about the value system, wealth creation and the responsibility to give back to the community.
Now that there's more time, we have been doing some trips overseas and down to Palm Springs and Hawaii. We're also building a new lake house. It's nice working here at Casadona as it gives me a chance to mentor my boys. I am taking more of a background role and providing support. It's working out great."
Lorenzo Donadeo, Co-founder, Chair and former President and CEO of Vermilion Energy Inc.; Casadona Group Founder and Director | Welding 1977 | Distinguished Alumnus 2016
2016 SAIT Distinguished Alumnus
How do you build a $6.5 billion enterprise? Incrementally, says Lorenzo Donadeo, co-founder, former CEO and chairman, Vermilion Energy Inc.
"When we founded Vermilion Energy in 1994, we literally started at zero with a plan to take the company to $2 per share and then sell it."
That's not what happened. Today, Vermilion hovers at about $72 per share (including $30 of dividends per share paid to date), produces 65,000 barrels of oil each day, is listed on the TSE and NYSE, and has operations in North America, Europe and Australia.
"When we reached our original $2 per share goal, we realized our model was pretty unique," says Donadeo. "We had found a niche and we knew that we could continue to add value and grow the company."
But Vermilion wasn't immune to the ebb and flow of the oil and gas industry. "That's where the biggest learning happens," says Donadeo. "When oil was $10 a barrel in 1998 it was probably the toughest point in our growth, but it also taught us the importance of staying calm, having strong financial controls, and keeping the entire organization motivated and focused on what they can do to help."
When you do see success — in good times or bad — Donadeo says it's important to take the time to celebrate. "To succeed, you need smart people who are engaged, and you need to create a culture that respects and rewards those people for their contributions. When you do that, your company can perform at a high level because people want to be a part of that."
Sharing in that success goes beyond the company itself, adds Donadeo. "From a business perspective, we always felt we needed to give back and invest in the communities where we work and live — to find causes where we could make a difference in people's lives. In my personal life, I feel much the same way. The fact that you're able to do well is a result of your education and the support you've been given from the community at large. To me, that means you have a responsibility to give back to the people who got you there."
What is your proudest moment to date?
"I don't know if I can pinpoint a single moment because it takes time to create a company with good corporate soul — one that has a strong culture, and cares about its people, the environment, and giving back to the community. Achieving that is very incremental — sometimes you don't even really realize it's happening."
How has your SAIT education impacted your career?
"After high school, I had no idea what I was going to do. The most important things I took away from my time at SAIT were confidence in my scholastic abilities and the opportunity to find out what I was really interested in. The base of knowledge and the hands-on approach I learned at SAIT are things I've relied on to solve day-to-day problems throughout my career."
What's your advice for beginning students in your field?
"Work hard and realize that you're on a lifelong learning expedition. If you are continually learning, I think you'll do well. And make sure you take the time to celebrate your successes along the way with your family and your friends."
Written by Michelle Woodard
Photo by George Webber