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Lawrence Stroll, left, and Michael Kors during Olympus Fashion Week in 2006
Lawrence Stroll, left, and Michael Kors during Olympus Fashion Week in 2006

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Meet Canada's new Forbes billionaire, and his Ferraris Add to ...

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, March 7, 2012. Get the top business stories through the day on BlackBerry or iPhone by bookmarking our mobile-friendly webpage.

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The new billionaire One of the new additions to the celebrated Forbes list of billionaires is Canadian Lawrence Stroll, who owns more Ferraris than I own ties, and the racetrack to go with them.

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Mr. Stroll, 52, who also owns Circuit Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentians, ranks 719 on the Forbes list released today. Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu tops the list, at $69-billion, followed by the ever-present Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Bernard Arnault of LVMH and Spain's Armancio Ortega, also a fashion mogul.

Forbes lists what it said is a record 1,226 this year, from 58 countries, compared to 1,210 last year. Together, their total worth is $4.6-trillion, or an average $3.7-billion, up a shade from last year's $4.5-trillion.

Late last year, Mr. Stroll and his Hong Kong colleague, Silas Chou, took fashion house Michael Kors public, and its stock has since surged by more than 75 per cent. That increase brought their combined holdings to almost $3-billion (U.S.), putting them both on the list.

Mr. Stroll's wealth is pegged by Forbes at $1.8-billion (U.S.), and he's currently living in Switzerland.

Mr. Stroll, a father of two and late of Montreal, has partnered with Mr. Chou for some time. Together they backed Tommy Hilfiger, among other ventures, and he has a long history with brand names.

Here's how the Official Ferrari Magazine described him: "Following in his father’s footsteps, this highly respected Canadian launched Polo Ralph Lauren in Europe in the ’80s, later became closely linked with Tommy Hilfiger, and eventually built a company with worldwide sales in excess of $2-billion. Today, Lawrence Stroll is involved in a new challenge as one of the principal investors backing the expansion of the Michael Kors brand, which has gone from strength to strength since Kors unveiled his first womenswear line in New York back in 1981."

Mr. Stroll originally acquired the licence for Pierre Cardin kids' wear in Canada, and then struck a similar deal for Polo Ralph Lauren. He then took the latter across Europe.

Through Sportswear Holdings Ltd., which Mr. Stroll co-founded, he acquired the Tommy Hilfiger operation along with Mr. Hilfiger and others, according to a corporate posting on Forbes. The company then gobbled up Asprey and Garrard, later selling it, and then got into Michael Kors Corp. in 2003, it said.

A racing and car enthusiast, who owned 25 Ferraris at the time of the interview, he told the Official Ferrari Magazine: "When I use my cars I’m tough: I exploit her 100 per cent in her performance, and if we are at a race meeting, I act tough by taking risks. I don’t think of it as a museum piece or about the value of what I’m driving. If I go on a trip, it’s only sensible that I don’t start racing along the road, but if conditions and laws permit, I try to feel the sensations that a Ferrari can give you both on and off the track."

Among those cars is the Ferrari 330 P4, which Mr. Stroll had dreamed of owning since he was a kid. I don't know a lot about sports cars, but I think he has some that are to die for.

"Before the P4, a more realizable dream occurred in 1980: the Daytona Spider," Mr. Stroll told the magazine.

"I bought it while I was living in Paris, so it had glamour with a European flavour. Immediately afterwards there was an opportunity to acquire a 1985 288 GTO. The idea of possessing a Ferrari with that legendary name, of which just 272 were built … what that actually did was reinforce the desire to own and drive another GTO: the 1962 original ... In 1995 I managed to crown the dream, and yes it really is a dream, of becoming the owner of a 1962 250 GTO. I researched the market for years and became friendly with an owner quite separately from any negotiations."

Apple beefs up the iPad I wonder if I can talk my wife into buying me a new iPad, given the she just bought me a new iPad for Christmas.

Apple Inc. , which dominates the market, unveiled a new version of its popular tablet today in San Francisco.

The new version boasts four times the number of pixels on the iPad 2. There's also a new chip, 4G capability and other features.

Maybe if I can't convince my wife, I can convince The Globe. The new iPad will take dictation and convert it to text. So I could speak this column, rather than type it.

It will be available March 16.

Market jitters ease Global markets are calmer today after yesterday's rout, but it could be the briefest of respites.

Investors fled stocks yesterday on concerns over the economic outlook and the looming deadline for a crucial bond swap in Greece. The deadline for bondholders to agree to that exchange is tomorrow, so it's a fairly safe bet that at least some volatility in financial markets will pick up again.

"It appears that even now there are some optimists to be found in global markets, as the bulls poke their heads nervously above the parapet," said sales trader Ben Critchley of IG Index.

"However, the issues that prompted yesterday’s selloff remain unresolved, most notably the Greek debt swap, which has yet to be completed. The deadline for this is Thursday, which provides a degree of scope for further jitters until the actual result is known."

As The Globe and Mail's Eric Reguly writes in today's Report on Business, several institutions that hold the bonds, part of a creditor steering committee, have agreed to sign on to the so-called private sector involvement, or PSI, that's part of Greece's grand plan to ease its debt crisis.

But it's far from clear whether Athens will get the number it wants, and further, whether it will trigger what are known as collective action clauses, or CACs, that retroactively change the terms of its debt. Also unknown is whether such a move would be deemed a default that would in turn trigger insurance payouts.

All of this comes in the run-up to a March 20 bond redemption. And Greece's finance minister is playing hardball.

"Following on from Monday’s announcement that the 12 members of the IMF Greece creditor’s steering committee, including BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank, would be participating in the Greece debt swap, all the remaining Greek banks followed suit," said senior market analyst Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.

"In a surprise development at least four Greek pension funds have refused to take part in the bond swap, after coming under pressure from workers unions, worried about the effect on the viability of their funds. They obviously didn’t get the memo from Finance Minister Venizelos about holdouts not getting paid out in full, and CAC’s being triggered whether investors agreed or not."

These developments played into yesterday's market angst, though there's a more optimistic mood today.

"Various institutions have been publicly announcing their intention to take part in the Greek PSI swap (overnight it was Allianz, Unicredit and Generali) and rumours of deadlines being extended are all but dead," said currency strategist Elsa Lignos of RBC in London.

"So some of the more negative perceptions have been priced out overnight but we think risk appetite will struggle to break higher. There is little incentive to leak any good news about PSI participation ahead of time as it reduces the incentives for others to sign up, so if anything the risks on leaks are skewed to the downside."

(Germany's outspoken Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble went to visit the pope today, along with what the Vatican Information Service called his "entourage." Well, a little prayer couldn't hurt.)

Whither the markets Yesterday's downdraft on the markets ended, at least temporarily, a rally that had generally been running since mid-December, fuelled by central bank action and brighter economic readings.

Where do things stand now?

"The best clues are likely to come from volatility across asset classes," said senior currency strategist Camilla Sutton of Scotia Capital.

"One of the most important themes in 2012, has been the collapse in volatility as G4 central banks have removed tail risk through aggressive and alternative policy," she said in a research note today.

"The second is the outlook for global growth, which improved materially in the first months of 2012. The combination of these two drivers spurred a significant risk rally in the first two months of 2012. The easiest way to follow the market’s pricing of these two themes is likely through volatility and copper (with the latter being a good proxy for global growth). Shifts in either of these are likely to be the clues that the environment is changing and a more material end to the risk rally is upon us."

Scotiabank acquires U.S. firm Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia has struck a deal to acquire Howard Weil Inc., a U.S. investment boutique with a sole focus on energy.

Scotiabank didn't say how much it's paying. The combined group will now have research coverage on more than 220 energy companies. The bank already has a strong energy investment banking business through its Scotia Waterous division, The Globe and Mail's Tim Kiladze writes.

Howard Weil is based in New Orleans and Houston, and dates back to 1946.

“Our overall equities strategy continues to focus on global growth initiatives where we have deep sector expertise or can leverage Scotiabank’s organizational and geographic presence,” managing director Patrick Burke said in a statement.

Strike threatened at Air Canada The biggest union at Air Canada is threatening to strike just as many Canadian kids head off for what's known as March Break.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents mechanics, baggage handlers, cargo agents and other at Canada's largest carrier, set a deadline of just past midnight next Monday, The Globe and Mail's Brent Jang reports.

Air Canada said it would "endeavour to minimize inconvenience to its customers" if a labour deal isn't reached in time, and Labour Minister Lisa Raitt urged the airline and the union to settle their differences.

Housing cools, still near global top Canada's housing market has lost its "prior exuberance," but still remains among the top global markets, Bank of Nova Scotia says.

That's a good thing, Scotiabank's Adrienne Warren said in a new report today, citing the slowing in home prices over the past six months because of high prices, mortgage restrictions and fewer jobs being created.

"We expect sales and prices will be relatively flat in the year ahead," Ms. Warren said in her report.

"Even with interest rates forecast to remain low well into next year, public sector restraint and a lack of pent-up demand will temper both first-time and move-up buyer activity. Regionally, relatively stronger job and income gains and more positive demographic trends favour Western Canadian housing markets over those in Central and Eastern Canada."

This is an "important step" in rebalancing market valuations, she added, as, for example, income catches up to prices.

Ms. Warren also still sees no meltdown on the horizon.

She tracked global trends to find that markets have come under "increasing stress," but Canada still ranks well.

"Pricing conditions in the majority of markets in our survey deteriorated in the final quarter of 2011," she said. "Sovereign debt concerns, high unemployment, weak consumer confidence and, in some cases, excess supply and tight credit, continue to stifle demand and depress prices."

Building permits slip Construction plans in Canada slipped in January, largely on a pullback from condo developers in Ontario, but these numbers are notoriously volatile and it's just a one-month reading.

The value of building permits issued in January in Canada fell 12.3 per cent to $6-billion, Statistics Canada said today. That followed a hefty gain of more than 10 per cent in December.

Where residential construction is concerned, permits fell 6.6 per cent, after three months of gains, and largely related to multifamily units, such as condominiums, in Ontario.

Over all in Canada, permits for such developments sank 12.4 per cent in January, after surging almost 31 per cent in December.

Ontario led the drop, followed by Alberta, while gains were led by British Columbia and Quebec.

"However, even with January’s loss, the level of overall residential permits remains above levels seen in 2011, suggesting that the low-rate environment continues to support home-building," CIBC World Markets economist Emanuella Enenajor said of the overall showing.

Garda beefs up advisory board Canada's Garda World Security Corp. is really into macho.

Today it added retired U.S. Navy Admiral Eric Olson, whose nickname is Bullfrog from his SEAL days, to the international advisory board of its GardaWorld subsidiary.

The board already boasts the likes of the former Permanent Secretary of Britain's Civil Service and Intelligence, Security and Resilience Cabinet Office, and the former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Here's how Garda described its newest recruit: "Admiral Olson led the United States Special Operations Command for four years prior to his retirement from active service in September 2011. The first Navy SEAL to be promoted to three-star (2003) and four-star rank (2007), Admiral Olson’s career was one of both personal valour and visionary leadership. He is credited as the officer most responsible for developing the special operations capabilities that have been so prominently displayed in several of the most notable operations of recent years, including the capture of Saddam Hussein and the death of Osama bin Laden."

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