John Embry, one of the country's top fund managers, has left Royal Bank of Canada to become president of Sprott Asset Management Inc., a privately held Toronto investment firm.
Mr. Embry, a noted gold specialist and 30-year industry veteran, was lead portfolio manager of the Royal Precious Metals Fund. It was the industry's top performer last year, gaining 153 per cent.
Mr. Embry will assume responsibility for the Sprott Gold and Precious Minerals Fund when he begins at the firm on March 1, his 62nd birthday. He will also be charged with helping to shape the corporate and investment policies of the company, which manages more than $1.3-billion in assets.
Eric Sprott, chief executive officer of Sprott Asset Management, said he was "thrilled" by the addition of Mr. Embry. He suggested the fund manager will spearhead an initiative to encourage Canadians to increase their investment directly in precious minerals or in stocks of companies in the industry.
Dan Chornous, chief investment officer of RBC Global Investment Management, said yesterday that Gord Zive will succeed Mr. Embry as lead manager of the Royal Precious Metals Fund. Mr. Zive, assisted by Chris Beer, currently oversees the Royal Global Resources Sector Fund.
Mr. Chornous said he was "disappointed" when Mr. Embry submitted his resignation yesterday, but added that the bank had been preparing a succession plan for the fund manager.
"John's been a great partner, and a key player, and obviously a solid fund manager for our unitholders," he said. "But having said that, I think that we also want to emphasize that the bulk of the funds here have always been managed on a team approach, and as a result we have a considerable amount of bench strength."
Already well known in the mutual fund industry, Mr. Embry gained notoriety last year when he endorsed the notion of a central bank conspiracy to depress gold prices.
Last June, Mr. Embry caused a stir -- and became an instant hero to gold bugs -- when he wrote an eight-page report suggesting that there was "increasing evidence" that bullion prices were being manipulated. The conspiracy theory, advocated for years by organizations such as the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee Inc. in Dallas, essentially argues that central banks try to contain surges in gold prices in order to maintain confidence in the U.S. dollar.
RBC distanced itself from the report, saying at the time that it did not reflect the view of the bank.
© 2007 The Globe and Mail. All rights reserved.
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