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Meet the Irvings

A business empire that was once run by just one man, K.C. Irving, now sees younger Irvings manoeuvring for control. Each generation of Irvings has left its mark on the family empire, and the biggest crop yet is almost old enough to join the fun, reports Omar El Akkad.


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James Dergavel (J.D.) Irving


The Irving empire began in 1881 when James bought a small sawmill in 1881. The son of Scottish immigrants eventually came to dominate the local economy.

Kenneth Colin (K.C.) Irving: (son of J.D. Irving)


James's son is considered one of the greatest businessmen in Canadian history. He played tough and kept costs as low as humanly possible, moving the family business to Saint John and turning it into a diversified empire. He expanded the sawmill business into other parts of the forestry sector, and also moved into retail food processing and all kinds of other sectors. Perhaps his smartest move was picking up a piece of the energy pie - the energy business is now the Irvings' most profitable.

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James (J.K.) Irving: (son of K.C. Irving)

(Born 1929)

K.C.'s oldest son. He inherited the forestry business, which falls under the umbrella of J.D. Irving Ltd. That company also controls many of the other businesses, including food and homebuilding, as well as the Irvings' media holdings, which cover many East Coast papers. Having passed off most of his management duties to his children, J.K. focuses some of his energies on conservationism, but still keeps a watchful eye on the business.

Arthur Irving: (son of K.C. Irving)

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(Born 1931)

The most flamboyant of the three Irving brothers, in that he has a bit more of a social life than the other two. He also controls what has become the most profitable Irving holding: the energy business. Like his brother James, Arthur now leaves much of the day-to-day operational decisions to his two sons. His three daughters aren't in the family business.

John (Jack) Irving: (son of K.C. Irving)

(Born 1932)

The youngest of the three brothers is also the quietest. John inherited the Irving real- estate business. While being substantial, however, the real- estate holdings pale in comparison to the other two behemoth businesses. However, John is described as being perhaps the shrewdest investor of the three brothers. While there are few accurate public measures of wealth for what is essentially a family business, it is believed his investments have paid off handsomely.


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Jim Jr.: (son of J.K. Irving)

J.K. Irving's oldest son runs the day-to-day operations of the forestry business. He's described as being driven and determined, just like his father and grandfather. His style - no-nonsense, no prisoners - often rubs people the wrong way. But he's proven that his style works, raising the bar on management of the division.

Robert: (son of J.K. Irving)

Oversees the Moncton branch operations of J.D. Irving Ltd. That means the 52-year-old has to wear many hats: The businesses under his control range from trucking to diapers. He lost out to his older brother for the top gig, but he does have a lot of freedom in his varied mini-empire. He's also described as being more outgoing than his brother.

Judy: (daughter of J.K. Irving)

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The older of J.K.'s two daughters has a strong background in marketing. She owned the Moncton-based Hawk Communications firm for five years before selling it to two Hawk employees earlier this year. One of her clients was brother Robert's tissue business.

Mary Jean: (daughter of J.K. Irving)

A born leader like many in her family, Mary Jean became a major landowner on the East Coast, running potato farms in PEI and a packaging company in Moncton. Those businesses put her in a working relationship with her brother Robert, who also runs a French fry producer.

Kenneth: (son of Arthur Irving)

Arthur Irving's oldest son. He has perhaps the most prized job in the Irving empire, running the operations side of the energy division. That means he can spearhead ambitious and wildly lucrative projects, such as Irving Oil's liquid-natural-gas expansion. He's private, even for an Irving, but he's more of a modern manager than most other

Arthur Leigh: (son of Arthur Irving)

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Little is known about Kenneth's younger brother. Even though he has a senior marketing role at Irving Oil, Arthur clearly plays a secondary role at the business compared with his older brother. That also means he likely had to deal with less scrutiny from his father, who keeps a watchful eye on the Irving energy empire.

Jennifer, Emily and Sarah: (daughters of Arthur Irving)

None of Arthur Irving's daughters are known to be part of the family business, either in the energy division or working for their uncles.

Anne and Colin: (daughter & son of Jack Irving)

Both are not known to be involved in their father's businesses.

John Jr.: (son of Jack Irving)

The only one of John Irving's children to work in the family business. John earned an MBA from Harvard before working in various roles with the Irving real-estate division, the part of the Irving empire his father inherited. Quiet like his father, John Jr. could end up playing a vital role in the family business.



Jamie: (son of Jim Irving)

Jim Jr.'s son is the first of about two dozen Irving grandchildren, and the first to make a public mark on the family empire. At just 27, he took over as publisher of the Saint John Telegraph-Journal, one of the Irvings' key media holdings. He has so far received praise for not using his influence at the paper to sway coverage of his family.

Kate: (daughter of Jim Irving)

Jamie's younger sister stepped into the family business a few years ago, when she began working for her Uncle Robert in Moncton.


Most of the other grandchildren are too young to join the family business. However, the Irving dynasty all but assures that there'll be room for whoever wants in, and possibly a feud on the horizon as the empire is further divvied up.

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