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Illustration of Jim Pattison Group chief executive officer Jimmy Pattison. (ANTHONY JENKINS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
Illustration of Jim Pattison Group chief executive officer Jimmy Pattison. (ANTHONY JENKINS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)


Lunch with the irreplaceable Canadian billionaire Jimmy Pattison Add to ...

Mr. Pattison’s response is basically: Trust me. There is a plan in place that will maintain the companies into the future, he vows. He just won’t say what it is. “This company doesn’t depend on any one individual, including me,” he insists. It seems rude to disagree with a legend, but an uncomfortable truth hangs heavily over the lunch – that Jimmy Pattison is simply irreplaceable.




Ripley Entertainment, the world’s largest chain of family attractions.

Guinness World Records, Louis Tussaud, and Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls.



Overwaitea supermarket group, with120 locations in B.C. and Alberta. Includes Save-On Foods, PriceSmart Foods, Cooper’s Foods, Urban Fare and Bulkley Valley Wholesale.

Canadian Fishing Co. (Canfisco), which operates B.C.’s largest fleet of fishing vessels. Processing facilities include Delta Pacific, the largest fresh, frozen and value-added seafood plant in B.C.

Ocean Brands, the second-largest canned seafood brand in Canada.

SunRype Products, one of the biggest apple processors in North America.



The sixth-largest group of radio stations in Canada.

The sign group, Canada’s largest out-of-home advertising company, which has almost 50-per-cent market share.

News Group, North America’s largest wholesaler of books and magazines.



British Columbia’s No. 1 car retailer, with 11 brands at 19 locations.

The largest Western-based fleet management and vehicle leasing company.



Westshore Terminals in Delta, B.C., the busiest coal export facility in North America.

Owns 39 per cent of Canfor, one of Canada’s largest lumber companies.



Born Oct. 1, 1928 in Saskatoon (home was in nearby Luseland, Sask.); grew up in downtown Vancouver

He and wife Mary (they met at bible camp in their early teens) have three children, Jim Jr., Cynthia and Mary Ann. Jim Jr. is president of Ripley Entertainment, part of the Pattison Group; daughters are not in the business

Pattison Group, with annual revenues of close to $8-billion, is the third largest private company in Canada


Owns Frank Sinatra’s former compound in Palm Springs, Calif.

Has weakness for 100-foot-plus yachts, often with designs by assistant Maureen Chant

In 1985, paid more than $2.2-million for the Rolls Royce Phantom V once owned by John Lennon. It now sits in the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria

Company has progressed through a succession of corporate planes, the latest a Dassault Falcon 900EX.

Motherly love

When he started in the business, his mother could not afford to give him money but instead handed him a poem by James Russell Lowell:

Life is a sheet of paper white

Whereon each one of us may write

His word or two, and then comes night.

Greatly begin! though thou hast time

But for a line, be that sublime.

Not failure, but low aim is crime.

Jimmy the developer

He is applying for rezoning to build a large development on Vancouver’s Burrard Street, near the Burrard Bridge, on site of an existing Pattison Toyota dealership

It is slated to be a 13-storey office building, with two high-rise condo buildings, and a state-of-the-art dealership, with three floors of showroom and four floors underground for service and customer care.


Getting going

I can’t wait to get up in the morning.

Step by step

[In business], it’s all the little things that give you the final results.

Acquisition plans

We tend to buy family companies that tie in with what we are already doing. … Once in a while, we try something different but most of the time it is something we are in, or we have some knowledge of.

The big goal

“Customer satisfaction is our objective – to exceed the expectations of our customers.”

On the Northern Gateway pipeline

“I do not think it is going to go. I don’t think it is going to happen if they go to Kitimat.”

Health tips at 84

“I met this heart surgeon at a party in California and he was telling me what he was doing. He was sold on eating well and I tried to listen. If you drink wine, drink red wine and from high-altitude [grapes]. He is big on not taking sugar, or not eating things like potatoes, rice, and pasta.”

The company’s future

“In every decision we make, we are looking for the next 25 years and we are set up to last a lot longer than that.

We’re just getting started and we just built ourselves a base. We’re looking for opportunities to grow; if we don’t screw up, we will do well.”

Then and now

“My objective when I went on Cambie Street [with a car dealership in 1961] was to make $25,000 in the company before tax. Twenty-five thousand was a big deal. That first year, we made $29,000. [Last year the company grossed between $7-billion and $8-billion.]”

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