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Former Moosehead Breweries executive's death being probed Add to ...

New Brunswick's business establishment is mourning the sudden death of former beer-brewing scion Richard Oland, a man described as a major force in the Atlantic Canadian economy.

Mr. Oland was a member of the family that owns Moosehead Breweries Ltd., but he left the company in the 1980s.

The business executive was found dead Thursday inside a building on Canterbury Street in downtown Saint John. He was 69.

Police described the death as suspicious, but released no details. An autopsy was to be performed Friday and the city's police chief has scheduled a news conference for Monday.

The Oland family issued a brief statement Friday to thank friends who have reached out to help and offer condolences.

"This is a very difficult time for our family and we hope everyone understands our need for privacy," the statement said.

"We are very proud of Richard's many personal and business achievements and contributions to Saint John and the region. We will remember him fondly and truly appreciate the outpouring of support and heartfelt remembrances we have already received."

David Ganong, chairman of the Ganong Bros. Ltd. chocolate company, said he vacationed with Mr. Oland less than a week ago.

"I spent three days fishing with him in the Northwest Miramichi (River), using all of his fishing gear, and there would be no reason to suspect that Dick would have had a health problem at that time," Mr. Ganong said in an interview from St. Stephen, N.B.

"He fished, walked, did everything the rest of us did and appeared to be in very good health."

Mr. Ganong said he was stunned by the news of Mr. Oland's death. "I thought that my assistant had given me the wrong name. I just couldn't believe that Dick had passed. It was quite a shock."

Mr. Ganong said Mr. Oland spent his early years in business with Moosehead Breweries. Under Mr. Oland's watch, he said, some of the fastest bottling lines around were put into the Saint John plant.

Mr. Oland grew up in Rothesay, a suburb of Saint John, and was educated at the University of New Brunswick. He was the younger brother of Derek Oland, who is now executive chairman of Moosehead.

Mr. Oland also worked in the trucking business, at the Saint John Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., and as a director for several firms, including Eastern Provincial Airways, Newfoundland Capital Corp. and Ganong Bros.

More recently, he was president of the investment firm Far End Corp., according to the Saint John Board of Trade.

Mr. Oland was also known as a competitive yachtsman and fitness advocate.

Last year, Mr. Oland and his crew aboard the Vela Volce won the IRC division of the International Rolex Regatta off St. Thomas, one of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

He also served as president of the board of the 1985 Canada Summer Games in Saint John, and was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 1998.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said he was saddened upon hearing of Mr. Oland's death.

"It's just a very profound shock to hear this news," Mr. Dexter said Friday.

"Mr. Oland was, of course, a major force in the business world of Atlantic Canada. He will be greatly missed and we extend our condolences to his family and friends."

The Oland family can trace its brewing roots to 1867, when John and Susannah Oland started the Army and Navy Brewery in Halifax. The company was later sold, but the family returned to the business, eventually setting up the Maritime Brewing and Malting Co. in the port city.

After the Halifax Explosion destroyed the family's plant in 1917, George Oland - Richard's grandfather - moved to New Brunswick, where he bought another brewery with the insurance money.

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