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The Lunch, replated: The best business interviews of 2012

Every Saturday Report on Business brings you The Lunch -- insightful interviews with people making a difference in business today. Here are some of the best dishes of 2012.

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THE RIM WARRIORS
“We missed … paradigms” as the company grew, Research In Motion Ltd. chief executive officer Thorsten Heins told reporter Iain Marlow in August. Mr. Heins, on the job eight months at the time, was candid about his challenges: “Today, let’s be frank, I’m participating mostly in the QWERTY [keyboard] market. … I’m not really participating in any meaningful way in the [touch-screen] segment. So with BlackBerry 10, I will maintain and stay the leader in [devices with physical keyboards]. On full-touch, I’m in attack mode.”
The menu: Black coffee and apple strudel from Sproll’s Fine German Bakery in Kitchener, Ont.
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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The stock has climbed to more than $11 from its $6 lows a few months ago as the BB10 finally nears its launch. But the company faced harsh criticism for most of the past two years from investors and analysts, who said bringing in Mr. Heins to replace co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis was a case of too little, too late – a notion board director Roger Martin did not take kindly to in February: “I laugh at the vast majority of critics when they say ‘Oh, you should have made this CEO transition, like, four years ago.’ Yeah, right – like, to who?” Mr. Martin asked The Globe’s Gordon Pitts. “So we’re supposed to hand it over to children, or morons from the outside who will destroy the company?” he said. “Or should we try to build our way to having succession?” But the former dean of business at University of Toronto allows that the board failed to push for more marketing muscle in anticipation of serious competition from the likes of Apple Inc. “What would have been optimal is having the sales and marketing capability in place before that transition happened.”
The menu: Pasta
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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THE POWER PUGILISTS
“What stakeholders want is not just the economic value of capital investment. They want you to build and develop energy on a sustainable basis.” Because “it’s not just about the money.” Newly installed Enbridge Inc. CEO Al Monaco made the case to Nathan VanderKlippe in November that, with the controversial Gateway pipeline, his company can tap into Asia’s thirst for oil without any more spills, such as the July pipeline leak in Wisconsin. “Sure, we’ve taken a hit from this reputationally,” he says. “But we’re going to get that back.”
The menu: Egg and tuna salad in a plastic container
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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But at least he doesn’t sell coal. “Sometimes, when you are advocating for coal, you feel like you are advocating for tobacco,” TransAlta Inc. CEO Dawn Farrell told Gordon Pitts in April. “People make you feel that way.” While the company is pushing ahead aggressively with renewable energy as calls grow louder over climate change, coal is still the biggest weapon in its arsenal, providing 50 per cent of its power capacity.
The menu: Assorted salads and sandwiches
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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About those emissions … “It’s not a debate that I’d really care to get into because, for a lot of people, it’s like religion,” former Suncor Energy Inc. Rick George told Nathan VanderKlippe after stepping down this year. “What I don’t really like is when people say the science is settled,” he says. Investing in emissions reduction makes good business sense for companies attempting to stay ahead of the political winds and cut energy costs. But, personally, he has doubts.
The menu: Seafood cakes, served with a roasted-red-pepper aioli and pickled vegetables
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

6 of 11

THE RAILMEN
“There is a new sheriff in town . … He may be mean and ugly, but he knows about railroading and he is going to make this company successful.” Hunter Harrison was unapologetic in his lunch with Jacquie McNish just months after taking over as CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. To rebuild what he called the “spoiled, bad, horrible culture” that suffered from “a total lack of leadership,” he is ripping up just about everything but the railway’s tracks to shake off what he calls a “permissive” work ethic.
The menu: A beef burrito
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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That kind of tough talk and no-holds-barred approach is one of the reasons he was chosen by billionaire Pershing Square boss Bill Ackman, whose CP board massacre heralded a new era of investor activism in the upper echelons of Corporate Canada. “In every significant boardroom they are talking about the Canadian Pacific proxy contest and … what is the right thing to do for a board,” he told Jacquie McNish over a May lunch in Manhattan. “Directors are sitting up more straight and reading board materials more carefully. ... That is a very, very good thing.”
The menu: Miso matzo ball soup (instead of salad). The yellow- fin tuna burger (without the bun). Sautéed spinach (instead of fries)
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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THE CENTRAL BANKERS
“It’s very important [that] people understand the broader economic forces, and what realistic time frames there are for these forces to play out.” Soon-to-be former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney was talking to The Globe at a burger joint in Ottawa – months before he’d be handed the reins at the Bank of England, where a more complex task awaits him. “Unfortunately, in some countries, the range of policy options they have, given those broader forces and given their starting position, are pretty limited, and it’s a question of choosing the least bad option in the end. But that should take place in as informed a way as possible.”
The menu: An elk burger with bacon and caramelized onions. Hold the bun.
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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It’s safe to say that Mr. Carney has fared much better than his former counterpart at the Bank of Tunisia, who lunched at his desk with Eric Reguly during the throes of the Arab Spring. “The country was in turmoil. The first few days were violent,” Mustapha Kamel Nabli said of his first days on the job in April. “The big challenge for a central bank was to ensure the payments system continued to work.” The system worked – but he was sacked four months later over what the government described as political differences with the government.
The menu: Untouched cakes
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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THE HIGHFLIERS
“It’s just some bureaucratic, overly safe thing.”
Sir Richard Branson on dodging French authorities, who tried to stop him from “kite surfing” across the English Channel.
The menu: Tea
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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“I had problems that could have made me lose my life, which I nearly did. Sergio had been close. Even though some people don’t see him as human, he was the most human of all.”
–Fiat heir Lapo Elkann on Italian-Canadian Fiat SpA CEO Sergio Marchionne, who helped him get his life back together after Mr. Elkann was found unconscious following a cocaine-heroin overdose in the Turin apartment of a transsexual prostitute.
The menu: Bufalo mozzarella, prosciutto crudo, carrot and arugula salads, pachino tomatoes from Sicily, thin strips of fried chicken, exquisite home-made ice cream packed in glass jars, Fiat-branded chocolates
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Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail

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