How to rank the power of the titans of Canadian business? Not just by the money they've made for themselves and others (though that does help). To really break out of the pack, you need influence, the ability to get your way with governments, the public, partners and peers. And it's about respect; power players have earned the ear of the business world. Holding sway beyond the purely economic sphere-in political and charitable fundraising, for instance-is icing on the cake.
Contributors: Denise Balkissoon, Patricia Best, Steve Brearton, Patrick Brethour, Derek DeCloet, Leanne Delap, John DeMont, Jim Doak, Dave Ebner, John Lorinc, Brian Milner, Eric Reguly, Doug Steiner, Sinclair Stewart, Jim Sutherland, Andrew Willis and Konrad Yakabuski
25. Eliot Spitzer Attorney-General, New York State, New York City Okay, he's not Canadian. And he couldn't care less about us, since we can't vote him into the governor's chair. But Eliot Spitzer has had a greater impact on financial regulation in Canada than our plethora of provincial securities watchdogs have-combined. Spitzer, the "Sheriff of Wall Street," initiated the unprecedented shakedown of the mutual fund industry, exposing corrupt trading practices.
He then pursued hedge funds and insurers with the same fervour. Reputations were hurt; billions of dollars in fines were handed out; high-ranking executives were fired and, in some cases, went to jail. Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and MFS, the Boston mutual fund arm of Sun Life Financial, were among his direct casualties, but the spillover effect has been more far-reaching. Goaded into action by Spitzer, the Ontario Securities Commission finally launched its own probe into shady trading practices, eventually reaching settlements with five of Canada's largest fund companies.
24. Tony Comper CEO, BMO Financial Group, Toronto Tony Comper may be the only person who remembers the "Comper discount." Not that long ago, the CEO was singled out as the real reason that Bank of Montreal's shares lagged so many of its competitors'. Well, that was then, and Bay Street's memory is mercifully short as long as you're churning out cash. Comper has spun his caution into a virtue over the past few years, neatly sidestepping the regulatory screw-ups and loan-book flame-outs that plagued some of his peers. His reputation benefited accordingly: He was suddenly prudent rather than milquetoast. Like its CEO, BMO is solid without being flashy, and it has had an up-and-down run in the markets this year (not surprising, given Ottawa's waffling on the bank merger file). As the head of the most desirable takeover target in the country, Comper may also hold the trump card if bank mergers ever make it to the table. In the meantime, the bank's U.S. operation continues to grow (though far too slowly for some people's liking), and Comper remains the only bank CEO who has a proven strategy south of the border. His reach, however, goes farther: He is a director of the International Monetary Conference, and is one of the best-known Canadian executives in China.
23. Manos Vourkoutiotis President, Amaranth Advisors (Canada) ULC, Toronto Private equity firms are increasingly seen as tough-and-tall funders for entrepreneurs and managers who want risk partners to expand their businesses, or as a source of smart capital for those shrewd enough to eye a bigger competitor worth swallowing. The business is populated by some very potent, and very low-profile, investing wizards. The exemplar is Manos Vourkoutiotis. He is the Canadian face of investing giant Amaranth Advisors, one of a handful of megasized investment funds based in Greenwich, Connecticut. Amaranth, with more than $7 billion (U.S.) under management, has more than $21 billion (U.S.) in investment positions globally (banks lend them the rest of the money). They are tight-lipped about how much is invested in Canada, but it's certainly piles, since Vourkoutiotis routinely commits over $100 million to a single trade. The modus: Make money for clients in everything from distressed debt (Amaranth is rumoured to be the largest player in Bombardier debt), to cajoling management to restructure (the fund is the largest single investor in Cinram). Whatever works: You won't hear him, but Vourkoutiotis is right in the thick of it.
22. Ted Rogers CEO, Rogers Communications Inc., Toronto It's a common complaint that Ted Rogers's stature derives from the privilege of monopoly, but that's only partly true: It also derives from being a visionary. Rogers has sifted through the new technologies of the past 30 years and unerringly picked the right ones to build a high-speed lasso around his hometown of Toronto, Canada's fastest-growing city. Customers who feel lost in one of his wireless/cable/publishing empire's voice-mail hells can take some consolation from the fact that the directors of his corporations are always lost. They admit to sitting through one new technology presentation after another without a clue as to what the business applications are. Investors are in the same boat. Bay Street couldn't sell a single share of his Cantel mobile phone concept in 1983, so Ted financed it personally, selling it back to Rogers for a pretty penny just five years later. Now that's putting your money where your mouth is. The man understands power: At 71, he's still driven to regain his family's past wealth and position. Toronto's former SkyDome-now the Rogers Centre, home to Ted's Blue Jays-is a monument to that ambition.
21. Dick Currie Chairman, BCE Inc., Toronto Dick Currie flawlessly built a great retail chain and now is the senior statesman among Canadian board members. Who knows, after kicking out CEO Jean Monty, the Currie-led board at BCE and new guy Michael Sabia may even make a success of the aging telecom. Currie's reputation is as solid as a pallet of soap boxes on the floor of Loblaws. His special talent is in knowing which power tool works for which job. As the grocer's CEO, he realized that control of the real estate under a store would permit more capital improvements, so he effectively built a real estate investment trust inside Loblaw's shares. Then he added brand management and levered Loblaw's growth, forcing suppliers to manufacture his President's Choice products. He also used growth to manage his unions, reminding them at every opportunity that Loblaw was the industry's top job creator. Finally, Currie knew that patience complements every tool kit. His 15-plus years of effort to break into Quebec, twice frustrated by nationalist actions, is now paying off for his former employer. Perhaps in his retirement, this New Brunswick boy will be the first premier of the merged Maritime provinces.
20. Frank Stronach Chairman, Magna International Inc., Aurora, Ont. The auto-parts billionaire works the international political scene like no other Canadian executive. Private jets, a lavish new private golf course north of Toronto and horse racetracks enhance the schmooze power. His politically ambitious daughter, Belinda, and publicity from goodwill gestures-he airlifted hurricane Katrina victims-ensure he doesn't slip off the global "A" list. If anything, he's rising. Stronach has amassed his wealth and weight with sheer chutzpah. In the early 1990s, when Magna was deeply in debt and cracking, he basically said to General Motors, "If I've got a problem, you've got a bigger problem." The Big 3 agreed to pay for parts on delivery until the company was back on its feet. He then persuaded Chrysler to make him the dominant supplier of seats for the minivan, the hottest vehicle of the 1990s. At age 73, Stronach is still plotting Magna's next big moves. The company is moving up the value chain by assembling entire cars, such as a Saab convertible. His relentless efficiency drive continues-did someone say job "offshoring"? Stronach may be eccentric, and his $40-million-plus annual pay packets rile shareholders, but they'd rather have him on the payroll than at the track.
19. Pierre Karl Péladeau CEO, Quebecor Inc., Montreal Hold the presses: Could it be that PKP has mellowed? Or should that be matured? Or were we just too quick to judge him? Whatever. The cocky hothead who landed (too quickly?) in the CEO's seat six years ago, following father Pierre Péladeau's death, has passed through purgatory to win grudging respect on the Street. The guy might actually know what he's doing. Sure, the absence of real progess at printer Quebecor World is a sore point. But Quebecor Media is a marvel. It dominates its home market, showing the rest of North America what convergence is all about. Similarly, Quebecor's Vidéotron-with its bundled digital cable, internet, local telephone and (soon) cellphone offerings-has Ma Bell looking awfully arthritic. Now, the 43-year-old Péladeau is testing the temperature in Toronto with SunTV, no doubt nourishing dreams of replicating in English Canada the well-oiled convergence model that makes him so powerful (and feared) in Quebec. BCE might be loath to sell CTV to such a redoubtable rival. But for Péladeau-happily in love with his TV star/producer girlfriend, Julie Snyder, and the beaming father of six-month-old Thomas-where there's a will, there's a way. This time, he'll probably even have Bay Street on his side.
18. Tim Hearn CEO, Imperial Oil Ltd., Calgary Tim Hearn is a speak-softly-and-carry-an-enormous-stick kind of guy. The head of Imperial Oil has the kind of power that matters most of all-the ability to get others to play by your rules. Hearn's hard-nosed attitude has never been more evident than in the wrangle this year over the Mackenzie Valley natural-gas pipeline, which will be the biggest economic event to hit Canada's North. If, that is, Imperial gets its way with Ottawa, the Northwest Territories and various native bands. In April, Imperial called a halt to preliminary work on the $7-billion megaproject, blaming federal red tape and demands from native groups that would cost hundreds of millions. So far, Imperial's rumblings about icing the pipeline have worked, panicking Ottawa into coughing up a half-billion toward native social concerns such as housing, and prompting most of the bands to scale back their demands. Now, Imperial is pushing for breaks on royalties. As a strong but silent type, Hearn is a reluctant public speaker, but sometimes his actions speak louder than his words-witness the massive effort to move Imperial's headquarters to Calgary from Toronto, a potent symbol of the oil-patch boom. Hearn also scores points as chairman of the C.D. Howe Institute, the think tank that has been an influential voice for fiscal prudence, let-the-market-decide economics and tax cuts.
17. Claude Lamoureux CEO, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Toronto The trappings of success are lost on Claude Lamoureux. His tiny, fourth-floor office in the Toronto suburbs overlooks a parking lot. He rides the subway to work. But the head of the $88-billion Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan doesn't need a big office or flashy car to command the respect of CEOs across the country. The 63-year-old Lamoureux was pushing boards and executives to do the right thing for shareholders long before governance became trendy. He's got clout and uses it. As co-founder and passionate advocate of the Canadian Coalition for Good Governance, he speaks out on key issues and inspires other institutional investors to do the same. Moreover, he's got the special credibility that accrues to self-made men. Harking from a modest background in rural Quebec, he became an actuary, then was CEO of a successful company (the Canadian operations of Metropolitan Life), before moving to the Teachers' fund in 1990. He plans to retire in 2007, which will leave very large, if not stylish, shoes to be filled in the institutional investor community.
16. Rick George CEO, Suncor Energy Inc., Calgary Suncor is at the centre of the oil-sands expansion, the spark plug in Alberta's energy boom. Yet CEO Rick George is one of the few oil-patch executives with tree-hugger credibility. Suncor is the company most loved (least detested?) by greens, despite operating in the greenhouse gas-spewing oil sands. Wind-power projects, a decade-long energy conservation push and a groundbreaking acknowledgment of global warming as a real threat have given the Suncor CEO green credentials aplenty. As a rule, George scrupulously avoids partisan political statements in public, but he closed down serious industry opposition to Kyoto overnight when the company said the pact would cost just pennies a barrel. When you can force Talisman Energy and EnCana to surrender, that's power-the sway of a moderate in an often immoderate industry. Still, George is an unlikely candidate for New Age CEO. He came to Suncor with a reputation as an executioner, dispatched by Sun Oil in the early 1990s to dispose of a then-struggling oil sands operation. Apart from running Suncor, George is chairman of the country's strongest business lobby, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, where he is once again an early voice of warning-this time, on Canada's need to stop gloating about its surplus and retool its economy to compete in the 21st century.
15. Rick Waugh CEO, Bank of Nova Scotia, Toronto It's never easy to replace a legend, especially when that legend is Peter Godsoe. During his 11-year tenure at Bank of Nova Scotia, he was Saint Peter, presiding over a 20% annual compound return to shareholders while transforming the company from one of the industry's smallest players to its second-largest. Now it's Rick Waugh's turn. He may not have the Ottawa ties of his predecessor (or, if he does, they're not working-Scotiabank's clamouring for a bank-merger green light has gone unheeded), but he has posted an impressive record since taking over in late 2003. Scotia enjoyed a remarkable run in 2004, propelled by the strength of its international operations in Mexico and the Caribbean. More than any other bank, it has a growth story beyond Canada, and as a long-time executive in the international division, Waugh can take a good deal of the credit. He is now trying to extend his reach across the continent, pushing a NAFTA strategy that will position Scotiabank as the only player with significant corporate banking capabilities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
14. Henri-Paul Rousseau CEO, Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, Montreal Rousseau's Caisse has been so risk-averse since the former Laurentian Bank head took over three years ago that many Quebeckers must be wondering if their mattress might not offer better returns on their pension savings. Don't be fooled. Rousseau spent the first half of his first five-year term establishing Street cred, clarifying the Caisse's mission and overhauling its governance. One example: Unlike his predecessor, Jean-Claude Scraire, Rousseau does not do double duty as chairman. Although Rousseau doesn't say so, one of the goals of the overhaul is to make the Caisse's methods and motives less suspect on Bay Street. That should make it an even more attractive partner to Canadian businesses for the really big deals to come-that is, when Rousseau decides to throw his weight around. And with $175 billion in assets under management, the six-foot-four Rousseau has a lot of weight to throw. The Caisse remains the mother of all pools of investment capital in Canada. So far, to repair the damage done by a couple of disastrous years under Scraire, Rousseau's been playing it safe, making sure he never underperforms the stock index by, well, index investing. But when the dust of the overhaul has settled, and Rousseau decides to really play the private-equity game again, watch out.
13. Gord Nixon CEO, RBC Financial Group, Toronto When you run the Royal Bank of Canada, one of the country's largest and most influential companies, you will always make a list like this one. RBC has long been the bellwether against which other banks mark their progress, and it perpetually sits atop the rankings of the country's most admired companies. Yes, CEO Gord Nixon has access to top politicos, and yes, even his little decisions have the potential to affect millions of people across the country. Yet under his leadership in the past year and a half, RBC has shown some chinks in its well-burnished armour, precluding a higher ranking for its CEO. The bank's expansion strategy in the United States turned nightmarish, hurting the bank's profitability and attracting widespread criticism from analysts and investors. This is unaccustomed territory for the ne'er-do-wrongs at RBC, and Nixon was forced to radically overhaul his senior management team, sell his U.S. mortgage unit and reshape his organizational lines-an admission the bank had become fat and lethargic, and needed to shape up. So far, things seem to be working: RBC's share price, stuck in a holding pattern for two years, has snapped back to life, the stateside businesses appear to have righted themselves and analysts are believing again.
12. Brian Mulroney Senior partner, Ogilvy Renault, Montreal Life's just not fair sometimes. Just when it looked like he had that silly Airbus thing behind him and was raking in the accolades (and dough) as a globe-trotting ambassador for his law firm, Steve Forbes, the World Gold Council and more than a dozen big-name corporations, the former prime minister was clobbered this year by the double-whammy of a debilitating illness and betrayal by a friend (yet another one). On the mend from both the pancreatitis and the blow of Peter C. Newman's unpolished Secret Mulroney Tapes (is it a book or a screenplay?), Mulroney is raring to get back to work full-time. Even as a part-timer, he still puts in more hours and has more pull than a couple of his successors in the PMO (who will remain unnamed). The phone traffic to and from Mulroney's Westmount home is as heavy as ever, as the ex-PM goes about his daily routine of power brokering, opening doors for friends and clients, proffering advice and pulling strings within the Tory party. Mulroney's got his finger in so many pies, he should have no problem regaining the 40 pounds he lost during his illness.
11. Jim, Arthur and Jack Irving Irving group of companies, Saint John In Atlantic Canada, they're known collectively as "Irving," as if they were a clanking corporate cyborg rather than flesh and blood. On their home turf, the progeny of the late K.C. Irving-sons Jim, Arthur and Jack, now in their 70s, and the next generation-enjoy a degree of corporate concentration reminiscent of the 19th century. Where else could one family own every major English-language daily newspaper in a province, thousands of gas stations, 3 million acres of timberland, Canada's biggest oil refinery and everything from hardware stores to French-fry plants? The Irvings are the largest landowner in Maine as well, giving them huge political leverage in the Pine Tree State. At home, they've long had the ear of politicians-as underlined by the 2003 scandal over the slew of federal ministers who accepted freebie stays at the family's lodge. Lately, the Irvings are overcoming raps for being secretive and stingy. Still, they can play hardball when necessary. This year, they threatened to build their $750-million liquified gas terminal elsewhere unless Saint John provided the billionaire clan with a tidy tax break. The city, needless to say, complied.
10. Jimmy Pattison CEO, the Jim Pattison Group, Vancouver At first glance, it looks like Jimmy Pattison is stuck in a corporate time warp. He's a little guy in a loud suit, running an oddball, privately held conglomerate. A review of recent Jim Pattison Group accomplishments might confirm that impression: four 2004 Tube Council Tube of the Year Awards for his packaging division; the 2005 Bert Cannings Award for best TV newscast for small markets; and the opening of an Old MacDonald's Farm mini-golf outlet, complete with a Ripley's Super Fun Zone Family Entertainment Center. But add it all up and Pattison's sales totalled $5.7 billion last year, and his companies' head count ran to 27,000. He's cornered 42% of Canada's outdoor sign market, and he distributes 30% of North America's magazines. In British Columbia, he controls so much of the economy that he is not so much revered as respected the way one respects forces of nature. At 77, he commands mind-share with equal parts smart business decisions (investing in forestry at precisely the right time), canny politics (he has the ear of both Gordon Campbell's Liberals in Victoria and Paul Martin's in Ottawa) and an abiding ability to surprise (his addition to the 24 Hours newspaper chain is run by former NDP premier Glen Clark and leans, if anything, to the left). Long live the time warp.
9. Gwyn Morgan CEO, EnCana Corp., Calgary Gwyn Morgan runs the continent's biggest natural gas empire, presiding over a critical commodity that powers the grid, keeping us warm and cool. That gas, once cheap, is suddenly more valuable than oil, thanks to hurricane Katrina. Another marker: Morgan's EnCana became, in September, the Toronto Stock Exchange's No. 1 company, the first energy name in 25 years to pull that off. For someone who's fit, but only of average build, Morgan packs a heavy punch. After his AEC merged with PanCanadian in 2002, he elbowed out all contenders, taking the CEO job and ensuring his key deputies were AEC alumni. The "merger of equals" was effectively an AEC takeover. Morgan takes his swings in the political arena too, but is powerful enough to go his own idiosyncratic way. On one hand, he was a Stockwell Day backer, is a vice-chairman of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and was the loudest voice in the oil patch trying to shout down the Kyoto accord. (The Liberals still signed on, but never forced the industry to temper its profit machine-so Morgan won the war after losing the battle.) On the other hand, Morgan has lately called the world's energy use "unsustainable," declaring "the North American urban model is flawed." And he has instilled New Age vibes in Calgary, considering EnCana's touchy-feely constitution to be one of his chief achievements.
8. Ed Clark CEO, TD Bank Financial Group, Toronto He may play down the Ottawa connections, eager to shed the "Red Ed" moniker that has dogged him since his days as a high-ranking (and supposedly left-leaning) bureaucrat in the 1970s, but Ed Clark remains the most politically connected CEO in the banking world. That in itself is enough to qualify him for Top 10 status on this list. But this year has also been Clark's coming-out party. After devoting his first couple of years as chief executive to mopping up a corporate lending mess and refocusing the bank on its bread-and-butter branch network, he has begun to cut deals: He acquired Portland, Maine-based Banknorth Group Inc. for $5 billion early this year, and followed that up by merging his discount brokerage arm, TD Waterhouse, with Ameritrade Holding Corp. The goal is to become a sizable retail bank on the northeastern U.S. seaboard and a partner in one of the most dominant on-line brokerages in the world. Suddenly, Clark, more than any other bank CEO, has become the Street's fair-haired boy, a straight-shooter who has earned the respect of both his peers and the investment community.
7. Gerry Schwartz CEO, Onex Corp., Toronto Gerald Schwartz's power comes from his pocketbook. No executive in Canada has as much money and willingness to reshape entire industries, and no one is as frequently cited as a potential white knight in hostile takeover deals. The measure of his impact is probably best told not by his successes, but by his most famous failure, his 1999 plan to buy and merge Air Canada and nearly bankrupt Canadian Airlines. A Quebec judge foiled his audacious bid to rewrite the future of domestic air travel, but few others would have even been allowed to try-especially if they lacked Schwartz's credentials as a prolific Liberal fundraiser. Most of Schwartz's deals are not so political, and are far more successful; his preference for friendly acquisitions has helped Onex amass a group of companies that, on paper, dwarf even the major banks, with 110,000 employees and $17 billion in revenue. Notable components are the Cineplex movie chain and Celestica, the huge electronics manufacturer. With those holdings to the family name, Schwartz and wife Heather Reisman feel perfectly at ease with people more famous than they are-Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and Michael Douglas, to name a few.
6. Murray Edwards Vice-chairman, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Calgary You may never have heard of Murray Edwards. He'd like to keep it that way. But it's unlikely that the fanatically private Edwards-Calgary's most admired oilman-will be able to shun the spotlight much longer. Reason No. 1 is the ascension of Canadian Natural Resources. Considered, until recently, something of a second-rate oil company, it's now the 12th-most valuable public name in Canada. Edwards and his executive team are building the first real homegrown oil sands project, an $11-billion gamble that's propelled them into a rarefied stratosphere occupied by the global energy game's fiercest goliaths: ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and Total. The root of it all is a once near-dead company that Edwards, then in his late 20s, helped recapitalize with $100,000 in 1988. That's the sort of achievement that makes a reputation, pulling off what every other Calgary hustler only dreams of. And here's power: In a town of Tories, Edwards can go his own way as an unabashed Liberal, a major supporter of Paul Martin. The Regina-raised Edwards is also close with another Saskatchewan boy, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale. Edwards's clout is felt in other industries, like aerospace (he's chairman of Magellan Aerospace) and sports: He owns Lake Louise, one of the best ski areas in Canada, and co-owns the Calgary Flames, 2004 Stanley Cup finalists.
5. Paul Martin Prime Minister, Ottawa All prime ministers have an enormous effect on business simply because they control all the policy levers. But Paul Martin brings something extra to the job-a rare background in business and a long tenure as a finance minister admired on Bay Street. Knowing your way around a boardroom or balance sheet is not really an asset in politics, but it can work wonders with businesspeople, who are always complaining that politicians don't understand what they're up against. Sometimes, though, they forget that Martin is running the ship of state and not his old shipping company. This causes deep anguish whenever he does something they don't like, such as climbing into bed with the NDP. A cerebral type who seeks out people with ideas and information, Martin has cultivated a remarkable network of wealthy and respected business friends across Canada, and he always has time for loyal fundraisers like Gerry Schwartz. But he remains closest to such cronies as former Nortel chairman Red Wilson, the man of many boards; Maurice Strong, his early mentor; Laurence Pathy, a shipping tycoon and Martin's ex-business partner; Brian Aune, a former securities industry heavyweight and a director of CSL Group; and Ed Lumley, a chum since schooldays and a onetime cabinet minister who is well plugged in as a vice-chairman of BMO Nesbitt Burns.
4. Ken Thomson Director, Thomson Corp., Toronto Wealth doesn't automatically equal power, but when you have a fortune the size of Kenneth Thomson's, you can't help being powerful. The Thomson family is the country's richest-worth an estimated $22 billion-but the 82-year-old patriarch's presence in the Top 10 is a consequence of what he has achieved, not what he inherited. Ken Thomson foresaw a decline in the newspaper business when most of the industry was still in denial, and transformed his father's company into a publisher of information on finance, law and health care. It was a prescient decision, and the Stamford, Connecticut, company's market value has climbed to $27.8 billion from $9.4 billion in 1990. Thomson stepped down as chairman of Thomson Corp. in 2002, handing off to son David. But in Canada, much of his ranking is owed to pursuits outside the company: his minority ownership of CTV and The Globe and Mail (of which he is chairman) via the Bell Globemedia partnership, and his love of fine art. Thomson used to be famous for his parsimony, but three years ago, he donated an estimated $300 million in art to the Art Gallery of Ontario. He has also contributed $70 million to the gallery's expansion-the equivalent of about two months' worth of dividends from Thomson Corp.
3. Dominic D'Alessandro CEO, Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto Dominic D'Alessandro has the attributes of the classic financial services power boss: unchallenged authority backed by a credible track record, vast experience in banking and insurance, and impeccable political and business connections. Add to that list the power of fear-no financial or operational detail escapes him, so you'd better show up prepared and know your stuff cold. "Dominic is probably the most financially astute CEO in the country," says a board member. "He knows the numbers and the nuances of the numbers as well as anyone below him." No surprise, then, that Manulife has made few errors since its $18-a-share initial public offering in 1999. The shares have traded above $60 recently, and the purchase and integration of Boston's John Hancock Financial was executed nearly perfectly, without ruffling jingoistic American feathers. Manulife is also making great strides in Asia. All that has bought D'Alessandro considerable clout in Ottawa. The politicians and mandarins are in awe of Canadian international success stories, for the simple reason that there are so few of them. Endearing him even more to the feds is his love for his adopted country (he was born in Italy and grew up in Montreal). This CEO has no desire to sell out to a foreign takeover artist. Watch him continue to build a global financial services giant that's firmly rooted in Toronto.
2. Galen Weston Chairman, Loblaw Cos. Ltd., Toronto and Windsor, England What flavour of power shall we talk about when we talk about Galen Weston, who is the second-richest person in the country and 35th richest in the world? To start, he's got inheritor power. Weston owns 62% of the company his grandfather established-George Weston Ltd.-which in turn owns the same proportion of giant Loblaw. Economic power? He took that patrimony and grew the business to such a degree that the average Canadian would be hard pressed to avoid patronizing his grocery stores and bakeries. As for glamour power, this inductee on the International Best Dressed List is also in his element in the high-fashion retail world. He tends to own the best: Holt Renfrew in Canada, Brown Thomas in Ireland, Selfridge's in England. Then there's his lifestyle power: the fabulous spreads in Toronto and Florida and in Windsor, England, and the equally fabulous parties. As a host, Weston attracts the likes of his polo pal Prince Charles; as a guest, he makes the cut at Vanity Fair's ne-plus-ultra affairs. Finally, there is the power-couple synergy owed to his elegant wife, Hilary, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. Example: They write a cheque for $20 million for the redesign of the Royal Ontario Museum, and Hilary gets on the phone to help raise more.
1. Paul Desmarais Chairman, executive committee, Power Corp., Montreal The two main wings of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts stare each other down from opposite sides of Sherbrooke Street. On the north side sits the Benaiah Gibb Pavilion, a stately beaux-arts structure that dates from 1912 and is properly named for the wealthy local philanthropist who championed the idea of a world-class museum for Montreal and donated land and money for its construction.
From the south side of the street screams the busy and much bigger Moshe Safdie-designed Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, a $95-million study in iconoclasm that opened in 1991. Jean-Noël Desmarais was a middle-class Sudbury lawyer who died in 1983, never having lived in Montreal or contributed to the dynamism of its arts. Most Montrealers still aren't sure who he was or why he got his name on the city's premier visual arts temple. But, since it's there, most just assume he must have been somebody rich and/or important.
In fact, the wealth and influence belong to Jean-Noël's son, Paul Desmarais Sr., who donated $10 million to build the new wing. But in honouring his father, the son also commemorated his own remarkable achievements.
Paul Desmarais has made the leap-no, more like the intergalactic journey-from seedy Sudbury to the salons of Europe, the corridors of power and the pinnacle of corporate venerability so completely and convincingly, one easily forgets that he was not born into the aristocracy; that most of his immediate ancestors worked in the bush, not the bank; and that, only a few decades ago, the old Canadian Establishment, epitomized by the likes of Bud McDougald, whose Argus Corp. Desmarais sought to buy in 1973, was still trying to keep him on the outside.
Sudbury was and remains a rough-and-tumble mining town. It's not hard to see why not too many members of the Canadian business elite have ever come from there, much less French-speaking Catholic ones. (True, Robert Campeau grew up in Sudbury, but his success story took quite a turn.) Fewer still Sudbury natives (well, almost certainly none) have been intimate friends with every major Canadian prime minister and almost every Quebec premier of the past three decades. And fewer still (definitely none) have ever penetrated the barriers that separate Europe's aristocratic elite from the plebs, to the point that past and prospective French presidents seek them out, not the other way around. And how many other Sudbury natives are invited to private chit-chats at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with George W. and Condie Rice? How many spend their weekends fishing with George H.W.? How many are treated like a head of state by Chinese officials? None, none and none.
It's by pure coincidence that the country's most influential businessman controls a company called Power Corp. of Canada. Desmarais didn't choose the name. Power had existed for more than 40 years when he acquired control of it in 1968. By then, Power had evolved from an owner of hydroelectric assets-most of which were nationalized by the Quebec government in 1962-into a holding company with major stakes in a string of important Canadian companies, including Canada Steamship Lines and Consolidated-Bathurst.
Desmarais got rid of most of the assets outside the financial sector and spun off Power's stake in the financial ones into a separate, publicly traded entity, Power Financial Corp. The latter today controls IGM Financial and Great-West Lifeco Inc., which, in turn, owns such major players in the sector as London Life and Canada Life. It's also through Power Financial that Desmarais manages his partnership with Belgian industrialist Albert Frère. Their 50-50 owned Parjointco NV owns large indirect stakes in, and exerts considerable influence over, the affairs of such major European corporations as France's Total SA and Suez SA, and German media giant Bertelsmann AG.
Through Gesca Ltée, Desmarais controls seven daily newspapers, including Montreal's La Presse and Quebec City's Le Soleil. Through Power Technology Investment Corp., he has a major stake in biotech hopeful Neurochem. Then there's the 4.6% Power owns of CITIC Pacific Ltd., which invests in infrastructure projects in China.
Forbes magazine pegs Desmarais' worth at $3.3 billion (U.S.)., which alone would make him a contender for the title of the most powerful person in Canadian business. But what wins it for Desmarais, now 78 and mostly recovered from a mild stroke that he suffered in May, is the omnipresent shadow he casts over the political affairs of the nation.
While his network is global, his native land's affairs have been his most passionate preoccupation over the decades. As a young entrepreneur with an unbreakable belief in Canada-the result of growing up in a bicultural Northern Ontario outpost?-Desmarais chased after politicians. Now, he mentors them. If you want to figure out who the next federal Liberal leader will be, you need look no further than the golf course (an Augusta National copy) at Desmarais' opulent 75-square-kilometre Sagard estate in Quebec's mountainous Charlevoix region. (Free advice: Put your money on Martin Cauchon, not John Manley.)
It would be naive to think that Desmarais has never used his influence with, and much-envied access to, politicians to advance his own business and personal interests. If Canada's big banks still can't sell insurance in their branches despite years of heavy lobbying, might it not have at least something to do with the fact that Power Financial Corp. has always opposed it? If the tiny Charlevoix Airport has had better success than most of its bigger and more economically strategic Canadian counterparts in squeezing subsidies out of Ottawa, could it not be because guests at the Sagard estate-whether they be George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, French presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy, or some other past, present or future world leader-don't exactly arrive on bush planes?
But it would be equally unfair to Desmarais to leave it at that. His abiding interest in politics and politicians is driven less by his short-term business or social agenda than by his keen appreciation of history and the character traits that enable mere mortals to shape it, and by his own desire to play a role in nothing less than the evolution of modern civilization-for the better, as he sees it. "I respect greatly men of strong personalities. If I had to name some, I'd say Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Franklin Roosevelt, Mao Tse-Tung," he told L'actualité magazine way back in 1974.
In 1967, the year before he gained Power, Desmarais, who was only 40, realized another personal ambition. He became a media baron by buying La Presse, then Montreal's largest-circulation French-language daily. He wasted no time exercising his authority over the paper's content. Quebec Premier Daniel Johnson Sr.'s Union Nationale government had been elected in 1966 on the slogan "Égalité ou indépendance" (Equality or Independence), threatening to take the province out of Canada unless it got more constitutional powers. Shortly after taking over La Presse, Desmarais flew with a reporter to Hawaii, where Johnson was recovering from illness, in order to extract a clarification. Johnson conceded that he wanted renewed federalism and not the erection of a "Great Wall of China" around Quebec. Talk about a scoop!
Desmarais' unabashedly federalist views, and evidence that he has used his wealth and newspapers to promote them, have made him an unloved figure in most of francophone Quebec. Still, Desmarais does not as a rule discriminate among politicians, courting federalists and sovereigntists, federal Liberals and Conservatives alike. He was one of the first business leaders to recognize the legitimacy of the Parti Québécois government's mandate in 1976, participating in René Lévesque's business-labour summits. He and Lévesque had a begrudging but respectful friendship for years. Desmarais befriended Lucien Bouchard when the latter was still a federalist and serving as Canada's ambassador in Paris, a post to which he was appointed by Desmarais' closest political soulmate, Brian Mulroney. But Desmarais remained pals with Bouchard even after he betrayed Mulroney, founded the Bloc Québécois and almost won the 1995 referendum. Desmarais always doubted Bouchard was a true separatist, and many see his influence in Bouchard's decision to throw in the towel in 2001. Similarly, Desmarais is said to have played a role in persuading Daniel Johnson Jr., whom he employed between 1973 and 1981, to step down as Quebec Liberal leader in favour of Jean Charest in 1998.
If Desmarais befriends most politicians, he does not hold them all in equally high regard. He has much more admiration for Mulroney, Bouchard and Trudeau, for instance, than for Chrétien or Paul Martin, the former Power exec to whom he sold Canada Steamship. It must go back to that "strong personalities" thing. Desmarais never expected much from Jean Charest and, hence, has not been surprised by his so far lacklustre performance as premier. He supported his recruitment as Liberal leader because it looked like the only way to foil the separatists, then led by a man for whom Desmarais has infinitely more time, Bouchard. The speculation these days is that Desmarais sees PQ hopeful André Boisclair as a leader in Bouchard's image-a moderate (hence, acceptable) sovereigntist with a pro-economy bent. That has led Boisclair's detractors in the PQ to label him "the man from Gesca."
Given all of the above, it goes without saying that political savvy is a job requirement at Power. Those without it need not apply. You may have a degree from Harvard Business School and crunch numbers better than a computer, but unless you know how public policy is made, how to navigate the political process or how bureaucrats think, you're of no interest to the House of Desmarais. This explains why so many members of the Power brain trust have worked in government and politics.
It has been almost a decade since Paul Desmarais handed his operating titles at Power to sons Paul Jr. and André, now 51 and 49, respectively. Of course, it's been hard for the boys to convince anyone that they're actually in charge, given their father's long shadow and the collegial manner in which decisions appear to be made at Power. Indeed, if Paul Desmarais taught his boys anything, it is to surround themselves with able and (especially) loyal advisers. It is the secret, admirers say, of Power's success.
It's too early to tell whether André-who has been married to France Chrétien, daughter of the former prime minister, since 1981-and Paul Jr. will ever influence Canadian politics as much as their father has. Both are extremely active in business lobbies, such as the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and are policy wonks in their own right. But neither has so far shown himself to possess his father's charisma. The jury is also out as to whether the boys' seemingly smooth partnership as co-CEOs will survive the strains of their father's eventual passing or the rivalries that may emerge when it comes time to dish out titles to some of Paul Sr.'s 10 grandchildren or split up his 135 million Power Corp. shares.
Whatever happens will likely happen quietly. While a young Paul Desmarais took bet-the-company risks, Power, under the sons, is managed much like a family trust-very carefully, very conservatively, very secretively. Just what you'd expect from the aristocracy. -Konrad Yakabuski