With future of Ottawa’s Clearford in doubt, Rod Bryden steps down as chair

After a dozen years leading the board of Clearford Water Systems, Rod Bryden is leaving the local clean-tech firm as the company warns investors that it may be forced to fold due to its mounting losses.

Clearford said this week that Mr. Bryden would not be standing for re-election at the company’s annual general meeting on June 21 as he focuses on his other ventures, including Plasco Conversion Technologies.

"Mr. Bryden has provided guidance and advice on the direction of the company for the past 12 years and has put us in a position to be successful with our product offering,” stated Kevin Loiselle, Clearford’s president and CEO, who the company expects to replace Mr. Bryden as chair.

Clearford’s primary offering is a decentralized sewage system that costs less to construct and operate than traditional installations. However, the bulk of the company’s revenues now come from selling purification systems that use ultraviolet transmittance technology.

Earlier this month, the company released its first-quarter financial results that included a nine per cent drop in revenues to $836,768. Its quarterly loss declined to $1.38 million, an improvement from its $1.59-million loss a year earlier.

In a note accompanying the financial results, company management said they’ve “not yet achieved profitable operations and have accumulated losses since inception.” As of March 31, Clearford had an accumulated deficit of more than $45 million.

As such, it’s relying on equity and debt financing to fund the company’s operations.

“Our continued existence is dependent upon our ability to secure additional financing and to attain profitable operations,” Clearford said in regulatory filings. “Whether and when the company can attain profitability and positive cash flows is uncertain. These uncertainties cast significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern in the near term.”

Mr. Bryden is well-known in local business circles as an entrepreneur and investor. The founder of Systemhouse and WorldHeart Corp. is also the former owner of the Ottawa Senators. More recently, he played leadership roles in waste-to-energy firm Plasco and cancer-fighting pharmaceutical company PharmaGap, neither of which have so far lived up to their full potential.

Mr. Bryden earned a base salary of $180,000 annually in each of the last three years, according to regulatory filings. Option-based awards, incentives and other forms of compensation pushed his take-home pay from Clearford up to $411,381 in 2015, although that dropped to $186,393 last year.

Additionally, SC Stormont Holdings, a company controlled by Mr. Bryden, is contracted to provide “executive and strategic direction” to Clearford at a cost of $15,000 a month.

Clearford said this week that its contract with SC Stormont Holdings will “not be renewed by mutual agreement” and will end May 31.