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Rob Ford’s widow sues Doug Ford over family business days before Ontario election

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's wife Renata, during a press conference at City Hall on November 14, 2013.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s widow and children are suing his brother, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford, alleging that he was a negligent business manager who cost the late mayor’s family millions and deprived them of the money left behind to support them.

The lawsuit seeking $16.25-million in damages was filed in Superior Court on Friday and came to light on Monday, only three days before Ontarians vote in an election where most polls show Mr. Ford is expected to become the province’s next premier. The lawsuit from Renata Ford accuses her brother-in-law of financial impropriety, extravagant compensation and bad management at family-owned company Deco Labels & Tags Ltd. The statement of claim was posted online by the Toronto Star.

Ms. Ford, whose husband died of cancer in 2016, and her children are launching the action against Doug Ford and his brother Randy, both of whom have held executive roles at Deco. These allegations, which have not been tested in court, allege both brothers “lack the education and business ability to justify their employment as senior officers of Deco.”

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Doug Ford, who has based much of his campaign for premier on his credentials as a successful businessman, denied the claims made by Ms. Ford.

“These claims relating to Deco are completely false and we will strongly refute them in court. I have also stood by my brother and his family through so many of their challenging times,” he wrote in a statement released by his campaign. “Renata’s lawyers have been clear to us throughout this campaign that either we hand over money, or they would go public with these false claims.”

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The lawsuit claims Deco was worth $10-million when founder Douglas Ford Sr. died in 2006 and that the family patriarch amassed personal investments worth between $15-million and $20-million. The company is alleged to have lost more than $5-million over the past six years and Randy and Doug Ford are accused of an “ongoing liquidation of investments” to fund the company and their own interests, shrinking the family fortune to less than $6-million.

As a result, the lawsuit says that in recent years the brothers have sought to “maintain the untrue public appearance of a successful business enterprise.”

The lawsuit says Rob Ford’s widow and two children expected to be supported by their inheritance, one-third of the company’s shares and the late mayor’s life insurance, which had been left in the trusteeship of Doug Ford.

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“It is heartbreaking that Renata has chosen to bring forward these false and baseless allegations against our family, right in the middle of the provincial election campaign.”

— Diana Ford

However, the lawsuit claims those shares were recently deemed worthless by a third-party valuation. Under Mr. Ford, and his brother Randy’s tenure, the company has been “so negligently and improperly mismanaged” as to destroy its value, the lawsuit says. Ms. Ford has said she has been unable to get a full accounting of her late husband’s estate.

Ms. Ford and her lawyers could not be reached on Monday for further comment. The Globe could not reach Randy Ford for comment.

The Tory campaign also released a statement from Mr. Ford’s mother, Diane Ford, who drew attention to Renata Ford’s history of substance abuse. Rob Ford’s substance abuse garnered international attention during his time as Toronto’s mayor and his wife has sought help for drug addiction in the past.

“It is heartbreaking that Renata has chosen to bring forward these false and baseless allegations against our family, right in the middle of the provincial election campaign,” wrote Diane Ford. “Renata has serious struggles with addiction, and our hope is that she will accept help for the sake of herself and my grandchildren.”

The label-making business, founded by Doug Ford Sr. in 1962, was no longer a profitable enterprise and has lost millions since Mr. Ford took over after the death of the family’s patriarch, the lawsuit claims.

Ms. Ford’s lawsuit alleges Deco lost more than $5.5-million over the past six years in Toronto and Chicago. It also alleges Doug Ford “committed the Deco companies to a series of ill-advised acquisitions” in New Jersey, Chicago and Ohio, “all of which ended in financial losses.”

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The lawsuit also states: “After deciding to devote himself primarily to politics and other interests, Doug Ford nevertheless maintained his position as an officer and director of the Deco companies and arranged to continue to receive very extravagant compensation.”

Mr. Ford received his salary, bonus, travel and automobile allowance, regardless of the financial performance of the company, the suit alleges.

The lawsuit describes a company without a coherent business plan, where Mr. Ford and his brother have resisted hiring professional managers and have provided friends and family members with jobs they aren’t qualified to hold.

Mr. Ford put Rob Ford’s widow and his two children, who are preteens, “in a highly stressful and unfair financial position during their period of grief after Rob Ford’s death” and continued to do so for two years, the lawsuit said.

On the campaign trail Wednesday, Ontario PC Leader Doug Ford said he will balance the budget and “give relief” to taxpayers. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says her party’s “first priority” will be helping families. The Canadian Press
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