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Frank Baylis, executive chairman of the Baylis Medical board, left, and president Kris Shah plan to reinvest proceeds in new medical device enterprise.Handout

Frank Baylis is the son of a Barbadian immigrant who won a landmark discrimination case in Quebec in the 1960s. He has also made movies, and served as a member of Parliament.

Now, he’s one of Canada’s wealthiest people, because the company he helped build for 30-plus years, Baylis Medical Company Inc., has agreed to sell its cardiovascular medical devices business to Boston Scientific Corp. for US$1.75-billion.

Boston Scientific is picking up a fast-growing, profitable business, with expected 2022 revenues of US$200-million and 850 employees.

Mr. Baylis, the company’s executive chairman, and Kris Shah, its president, co-own the debt-free enterprise, which has never raised outside equity. It’s the third time their Montreal-based business has sold a division to a major U.S. company, making them arguably Canada’s most successful medical device entrepreneurs.

But the pair, aged 58 and 60 respectively, aren’t finished just yet. They plan to put the proceeds to work building another medical devices business, Baylis Medical Technologies, focused on radiology and neurosurgery.

“I’m excited to see the cardiology business we’ve worked so hard to develop in Canada over many years evolve and grow through this agreement with Boston Scientific to improve the lives of even more patients around the world,” Mr. Baylis said in a statement. He added that he is looking forward to working on the new company.

Baylis Medical was founded by Mr. Baylis’s mother, Gloria Baylis, in 1986, as an importer and distributor of medical devices. It was a second career for Ms. Baylis, who had emigrated from Barbados to Montreal in the early 1950s and worked as a nurse.

She made headlines after she was turned down for a nursing job in 1964 at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel, then owned by Hilton of Canada Ltd. After being told the position was taken, she discovered the job was unfilled, and complained under a new Quebec law that made racial discrimination by employers illegal. She won her case, but the hotel appealed for years. She later found work as a nurse – including a stint for Dr. Henry Morgentaler – and relocated to Toronto before founding her company.

Her son Frank and Mr. Shah joined the business in 1989. The two men had met during a co-op placement during their first year in electrical engineering at the University of Waterloo. Both were sons of immigrant nurses – Mr. Shah’s Indian-born father worked in the profession – and both had ambitions to be self-employed. “We looked for opportunities, businesses we could start, technologies we could incubate,” Mr. Shah said.

They ended up working for Baylis. For a decade, they also ran a consulting company that helped innovative businesses apply for tax credits.

By 2001, they were ready to push Baylis into creating and selling its own devices. They set up research and development facilities in Mississauga, collaborated with local hospitals and built specialized instruments that helped identify and alleviate spinal pain using radiofrequency technology.

They sold that division to their US distributor, Kimberly-Clark Corp., for between US$30-million and US$50-million in 2009. In 2016 they sold another device program, for treating cancers in the spine, to Medtronic PLC for a similar amount. (Ms. Baylis retired in 2004 and died in 2017.)

Meanwhile, they focused on making products for use in cardiovascular procedures. Those included a five-milimetre-thick, one metre-long plastic pipeline used to deliver therapies to the heart. It is inserted in the groin and guided through the body to carefully puncture the muscular organ using radiofrequency energy.

As the cardiovascular business grew, Mr. Baylis followed his heart in other directions. He co-wrote screenplays and produced two films, in which he also acted. The long-time Liberal fundraiser even left his company to run for the party in the 2015 federal election. He won the Pierrefonds-Dollard riding in Quebec.

He returned to the business in 2019, but his political connections came up in a negative light after a Baylis-owned company won a subcontract to make ventilators during the pandemic. Mr. Baylis testified to MPs last December that he didn’t use his political relationships to secure any contracts.

Mr. Shah said the pair decided to sell the cardiovascular business, whose sales are concentrated in the U.S. and Japan, after looking for a partner to help it expand to the rest of the world. They were not interested in taking on an equity investor after being bootstrapped for so long. “We were quite happy with how things were going.”

Mr. Shah described their move into radiology and neurosurgery as “the next step to evolve into the next version of ourselves.”

“We enjoy medical technology, we get a lot of personal energy and pride from that,” he said.

The business will have a running start, he added, because of their considerable resources and managerial capacity, as well as their facilities, engineering expertise and the 120 employees they will retain after the deal.

“Hopefully we can grow faster than even our cardiovascular business,” Mr. Shah said.

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