Murray Edwards, the billionaire behind Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. and the NHL's Calgary Flames, says he relocated to London to make a fresh start following a tumultuous few years in his personal and business life.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail in Calgary, Mr. Edwards said the U.K. capital is the ideal locale from which to oversee his global investments.
"London's a great city," he said.
Earlier this year, speculation swirled about why he moved from the hub of the Canadian oil patch, with some observers tying the decision to an increasing provincial and federal tax burden and warning of an exodus of wealthy business leaders. But Mr. Edwards did not specifically list that as among his reasons.
"Moving to London was based on my personal circumstances, which I don't want to go into, based upon a change of scenery," he said in his first public comments since the new home appeared in the regulatory filings of some of his companies.
"It's a good opportunity to look elsewhere. I have lots of investments on a global basis, some based in Europe. I have lots of employees in the U.K. so it's a natural fit for me to live there.
"Plus it's an opportunity to step back. I'm stepping back from a lot of my day-to-day things and London's a good place to do that."
Mr. Edwards, 56, is a member of the Order of Canada and a major employer in the country. Besides Canadian Natural – one of the country's largest energy companies – and his co-ownership of the Flames, he is a major shareholder of Magellan Aerospace Corp., Imperial Metals Corp. and Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, which owns several ski resorts. He is chairman of Ensign Energy Services Inc., which held its annual general meeting in Calgary on Wednesday.
Mr. Edwards' energy holdings have fared better than many of their competitors in the oil price collapse, but their financial results have not been stellar in comparison to years in which energy markets were robust. He has suggested that lower oil prices are "the new normal." Meanwhile, he had a high-profile marriage breakup more than a year ago, which he acknowledged was among his personal reasons for moving.
Shifting his home base across the Atlantic raised eyebrows in Alberta, where so much of his business is based. He was among a handful of oil sands industry leaders who stood with NDP Premier Rachel Notley last fall when she announced a host of more stringent policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions, including a cap on emissions from the oil sands and an economy-wide carbon levy. Canadian Natural's Horizon oil sands development is among the industry's largest, and Mr. Edwards had previously been vocal about risks to the industry as a result of such costs.
He now lives in what he describes as "a modest flat" in the Mayfair district of central London, which is north of Buckingham Palace and East of Hyde Park. He said he has no plan to return to Calgary.
"For the foreseeable future, I'll be there," he said.
"I think sometimes change is good, yeah."
Meanwhile, he said he expects that rebuilding fire-ravaged Fort McMurray, Alta., will take years, but that Albertans have the resilience to do it. Several of Canadian Natural's operations are near the city, from which 80,000 residents have evacuated and where more than 1,600 buildings have been destroyed.
"It shows, as much as the flooding in Calgary and Alberta in 2013 showed, that governments have to be forward-looking and look for ways to plan for floods and fire, and how you protect communities, because the impact of these things is dreadful," Mr. Edwards said.