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Illustration of John Risley, serial entrepreneur and founder of Clearwater Seafoods Inc. (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Illustration of John Risley, serial entrepreneur and founder of Clearwater Seafoods Inc. (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)


Clearwater Seafoods’ John Risley: He’s still got lots of pots on the boil Add to ...

Meanwhile, the ONC story lives on in his two new businesses, which were not included in the DSM deal. One of them, the fuel venture built on his fast-breeding bug, is in early stages of commercial production. He has decided to raise the stakes dramatically by taking production beyond the lab to a 200,000-litre tank. “We’re in the process of rolling the dice,” he says.

This is a guy who shows no signs of slowing, and yet he knows he doesn’t have 30 to 40 years of runway ahead. He wants to see a wave of new Atlantic risk takers – “guys who don’t need to take naps in the afternoon.”

So does John Risley take naps? No, he barks, before admitting: “Well, maybe on a Sunday afternoon if my grandchildren have worn me out.”



President and CEO of Clearwater Fine Foods, the holding company that controls Clearwater Seafoods Inc.

A director of Columbus Communications, Freeport, Bahamas


Born April 26, 1948 in Halifax.

Left Dalhousie University just shy of a degree; he’s a big Dalhousie donor today.

He and wife Judi have two children, Michael and Sarah, and four grandchildren.

Home is a 32,000-square-foot Georgian-style mansion on his estate at Lobster Point, in Chester, N.S.; the property was once owned by the Pew family of Sun Oil.


Sailing and skiing – he recently added a ski retreat near Bozeman, Mont. – walking his dogs, raising cattle and horses, and owning equestrian facilities.


On biofuel’s potential: The energy industry is a monster, monster business and you say to yourself, ‘It is not a winner-take-all thing, but there will be multiple winners. Is there a legitimate chance I can be one of those winners?’

On whether he is a billionaire: I don’t think anyone goes away and counts it – you can’t count it.

On what he brings to the game: I hope I bring common sense. When people get very technical and sophisticated and you can’t communicate at that level, the escape is to get above it all, above the technical issues, and you get into the common sense realm.

On why he won’t retire: How many rounds of golf do you really want to play? Frankly, I’m not into retiring. Think about how stupid it is when you have spent your life accumulating knowledge, building contacts and generating this huge experience base – and then you walk away from it.

On lobsters: The perception is that selling lobsters is like selling champagne and you make a lot of money. In fact, we never made any money in the lobster business. We’re still in the business because it is part of offering a portfolio of products to the customers. And there are romantic reasons – it is where we got our start.

On the challenge in Atlantic Canada: My worry is we are really good at identifying our problems and talking about them; we are really terrible about implementing solutions.

On Canadian timidity and the Keystone pipeline We don’t say things [to the U.S.] like, ‘Do you want to buy your oil from Venezuela or do you want to buy it from Canada, who is your friend?’ Or ‘Our relationship would be fundamentally changed if you don’t approve the pipeline?’ It upsets me we don’t tell Americans that this is a big frigging deal for us.

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