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David Thomson (MARK BLINCH)
David Thomson (MARK BLINCH)

Thomsons move up in Forbes ranking Add to ...

Canada's richest people, information magnate David Thomson and his family, added $6-billion (U.S.) in wealth over the past year, ringing up a net worth of $19-billion in Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's most affluent people.

Mr. Thomson and family's 46-per-cent resurgence in one year is the clearest indicator that Canada's ultra-rich rebounded smartly from the economic crisis of 2008-09, sporting generally higher values in the 2010 survey released Wednesday.

Mr. Thomson, whose assets include part ownership of The Globe and Mail, also moved up in the global billionaire rankings, rising to No. 20 from No. 24 last year - and from No. 31 two years ago.

The other evidence of revival is the return of several plutocrats to the big leagues of global wealth, after a year of being consigned to the relative obscurity of non-billionaire status. Their return brings Canada's billionaire numbers to 24, up from 20 in 2009.

Calgary energy-to-hockey tycoon Murray Edwards bounced back to $1.4-billion in worth, slightly above another resurgent oilman, Clay Riddell's $1.3-billion in 2010 wealth.

Pharmacy magnate Jean Coutu also mounted a comeback, rising to $1.2-billion, while Douglas Fregin, one of the Research In Motion Ltd. pioneers, clocked in at $1-billion.

Guy Laliberté, the owner of Cirque du Soleil, may have soared in space in the past year, paying $35-million for a space-station vacation, but his finances remained relatively earthbound. He is worth $2.5-billion, the same as last year.

A clearer sign of North America's wealth revival is the state of B.C. conglomerate owner Jimmy Pattison's sprawling finances. A year ago, Forbes downgraded his fortune to $2.1-billion, a decline of 60 per cent. Mr. Pattison this year is up 90 per cent to $4-billion, reflecting improved economics in his continental mix of forest products, groceries, outdoor signs, terminals and theme parks.

Mr. Fregin, a former RIM director and executive, trails far behind the company's two co-CEOs, James Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. Mr. Lazaridis, who founded RIM, has a fortune valued at $2.2-billion, up 22 per cent, while Mr. Balsillie, whom he hired, clocks in at $2.3-billion, up 35 per cent.

The other Canadians on the billionaire list reflect a Who's Who of the perennially wealthy, with the Saputo, McCain and Bronfman names appearing. Galen Weston and family are No. 2 in Canada at $7.4-billion - and are ranked No. 100 worldwide. Their net worth is up an eye-popping 44 per cent, reflecting the resilience of Loblaw, Holt Renfrew and food processing assets.

The three Irving brothers of New Brunswick edged up 3 per cent to $4-billion, although nobody knows exactly what their private empire is worth. Global finance titan Paul Desmarais is slightly below that at $3.9-billion, an increase of 50 per cent in a year.

One clear loser in the survey is Edmonton pharmacy titan Daryl Katz, whose fortune, based largely on Rexall and Pharma Plus drug stores, is down 7 per cent to $1.4-billion. But maybe it has something to do with Mr. Katz's other high-profile asset, the NHL's downtrodden Edmonton Oilers.

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