“What’s the old saying? From shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves in three generations. Well, they’re hardly in shirt sleeves now.”
Time for tough decisions
Mr. Richardson never seriously considered taking the company public, Mr. Winograd says, and made difficult corporate decisions at times, such as moving Richardson Securities (later Richardson Greenshields, the last of Canada’s large independent brokerage houses, which was acquired by RBC Dominion Securities in 1996) from Winnipeg to Toronto in the 1980s. “That’s where the talent was, so [the move] had to happen,” Mr. Winograd says. “His head was in it, but his heart wasn’t. He couldn’t understand why things couldn’t be operated from Winnipeg. It wasn’t something that made him happy.”
After Mr. Richardson retired as CEO in 1993, Hartley Richardson says, he would “watch for rocks” from the bow of the corporate ship, but never attempted to second-guess his son’s decisions. “He knew I had to make some of my own mistakes.”
Mr. Richardson’s track record as a deal maker wasn’t flawless. In 1998, he triggered a legal battle with Albert Cohen, another Winnipeg businessman, over a $39-million offer to buy part of an oil and gas company. In court, Mr. Cohen alleged that Mr. Richardson had tried to back out of the hand-shake deal after a dispute over the value of the offer. A trial judge agreed, and Mr. Richardson failed to overturn the decision on appeal.
About a decade ago, Mr. Richardson, then in his late 70s, decided to locate a Canadian Airways Fokker bush plane that belonged to his father, and which had gone down without a trace in Charron Lake, in Manitoba, in the 1920s.
With a team of divers and naval equipment, Mr. Richardson found the so-called “ghost of Charron Lake” and salvaged the fuselage, which was completely in tact. “That was Dad,” Hartley Richardson says. “He was damned determined he was going to find that plane, and he did.”
Mr. Richardson is survived by his wife, Tannis; sons David and Hartley; sister, Kathleen; and nine grandchildren. He is predeceased by daughters Pamela and Karen.
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