It’s a cautionary tale of what can go terribly wrong when you trust the wrong person with your finances.
In this case it was NHL star and former Toronto Maple Leaf Bryan Berard who put his faith and trust in the wrong adviser, who he thought was a friend.
Berard grew up on Rhode Island, playing hockey with a dream of one day making it to the NHL. At the age of 17, while still in high school, agents from around New England saw the talent he possessed and began courting Berard. Along with the agents came financial advisers, eager to help manage his money.
One financial adviser in particular made an impact with Berard. His name was Phil Kenner.
A former college hockey player, Kenner pitched Berard with the help of 12-season NHL veteran Derek Sanderson. The hockey connection made Berard feel secure and the pitch sealed the deal. In an interview with TSN’s Rick Westhead, Berard recalled that Kenner promised “safe and conservative methods” so he could “grow” his money and build “a good retirement fund”.
In the 1995 NHL draft, at the age of 19, Berard was the number one draft pick. It was a huge honour and a dream come true, plus it meant a big paycheque for the young hockey player who grew up in a blue collar family with six siblings.
During the first season in his NHL career, Berard made $850,000. At the end of his rookie season he won the Calder Trophy, an award given to the most proficient rookie of the year.
Berard was eventually traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where his salary rose to $1 million a season. However, like many athletes, his focus was on his sport, not his finances. Berard claims he would check his financial statements and said “early on with Phil was perfect,” and “money was in an account, you could see it every month in our portfolio statements and things were good”.
Along with at least a dozen other NHL players, Berard trusted Phil Kenner to manage his money planning for his eventual retirement from hockey.
In 2003, Kenner opened his own company, leaving Sanderson and other colleagues behind. And over time, Kenner convinced his clients to put more of their money into real estate in locations like Hawaii, New York and Mexico.
In 2009, Berard began to notice that returns on his investments were drying up.
“Things weren’t working out. (We) didn’t receive any money back at all on any investments,” he recalled.