B.C. Business Leaders: The Power List 2005

In July, we partnered with market research leaders Ipsos-Reid to identify the most influential people in B.C.’s economy. Click here for results. Measuring influence is one thing, gauging how it’s yielded is something else entirely. For that we went to the experts – the people they influenced – to find out exactly how our Power 10 shaped this economy. Who better to assess the impact of, say, Industry Minister and ex-forestry boss David Emerson than lumberman Jake Kerr? We set up a few ground rules, which of course we immediately broke. But for the most part, we asked prominent people who: a) didn’t work for the person in question, b) wasn’t a close personal friend, yet c) was extremely familiar with their work. What follows are first-hand accounts from key players on B.C.’s power brokers.
1. JIM PATTISON, Jim Pattison Group
Glen Clark, President of News Corp., on his boss:
“The thing that’s interesting and important about Jimmy is that he really cares about the province. You saw that with Expo 86, and that was of course a huge commitment. In little ways and big ways, he’s there. I’m not saying there aren’t lots of people who care about B.C., but I think it’s unique for someone of his stature to be so concerned about his province.
He has a certain wiseness – he’s not prone to rhetoric or being political about things. He’s got a certain common sense and wisdom that’s very impressive. And this ‘caring’ – another thing I think really distinguishes him – he cares what people think. When I say ‘cares,’ I mean he genuinely listens to the people who work for him, not just a handful of senior executives. It doesn’t matter if you’re the janitor or the receptionist, he doesn’t care what your station is. He wants to know what you think and he wants to learn from you. In that way, he’s completely without pretension. It doesn’t matter who you are, he’ll return your call. And it’s not uncommon for him to walk into one of his factories and spend most of the time talking to someone on the assembly line. He wants to learn, and he’s always absorbing information. And you see that throughout the company. That’s just the sheer force of his personality. In the Pattison organization, you treat people with respect.
Obviously he’s very demanding of people, but his expectations are clear. There’s no games or politics. It’s very decentralized and he gives you lots of opportunities to be successful. Do you want to be the master of your own destiny? He gives you that opportunity and many bosses don’t do that. He’s approachable and you can’t say that about a lot of people.” – Noel Hulsman
Jim Sinclair, BC Fed president, on the man on the other side of the table:
“He’s built a clear reputation for being a hard-nosed businessman. Certainly in bargaining with him, as unions know, it’s been a tough fight sometimes. But Pattison has a sense of pragmatism. He understands that unions aren’t the enemy. As much as we fight for higher wages, as much as we’re a problem for him, he knows we’re here to stay. And during tough times we can talk to Jimmy about what the province is doing. In my experience, he’s always been open to having conversations about critical issues in B.C. And he’ll have those conversations with anyone.
We’ve recently seen some very nasty labour disputes here. You don’t traditionally see that with Jimmy. In all my years of dealing with him, I’ve never encountered anything like that.
In fact, I remember being in a Seattle courtroom 20 years ago when Pattison bought Canadian Fishing Co. It had gone absolutely flat on its ass bankrupt in the States but was still viable in Canada. It went into receivership. And this is raw capitalism at its best: the receiver went into the courtroom and the judge asked if he was ready to announce who owned the company. He said no and asked if the judge would leave the chambers for 45 minutes.
As soon as the judge left the room, the receiver walked up to the witness box, cranks the microphone over and says, ‘Welcome to the auction for the Canadian Fishing Company. The starting bid is $13 million, and we’re going to go up $250,000 a bid, and you’ve got three minutes.’ I watched Jimmy the entire time. As soon as anyone moved, he instantly upped the bid. In the end, he owned it.
He’s hard-nosed, there’s no question about it, and he picked up that company for almost nothing, but at the end of the day, he believed B.C. should have a fishing industry. I’m not trying to romanticize the guy. The bottom line is the bottom line, but somewhere else in his heart or his mind he’s thinking: “‘It’s important that British Columbia works.’” – NH
Jack Austin, B.C. Senator, on B.C.’s business king:
“I met Jimmy in 1958, when I was practising law. He owned CJOR radio and had fired the manager, who was my client. Even though Jimmy was on the other side of the table, he was very fair. He had a strong personality, but even in adversarial circumstances he was the kind of guy you could like very quickly. I’ve known him for over 45 years, and he’s always been someone to take note of. He has enormous energy and he’s always been a bit of a showman. When he got into the car business, he made sure everyone knew the name Jim Pattison. It’s that capacity for marketing and showmanship and creating public profile that’s made him the most successful car dealer in Western Canada. Of course, on top of all of that, he’s a very shrewd businessman. It’s the combination of understanding the principles of marketing and business and having the personality to go with it. He’s had a huge impact on the companies he invests in because he’s so disciplined. He knows exactly the right information to look for. He makes his expectations clear, but he’s also very fair. He keeps his commitments. Jimmy has received a lot of acknowledgement for his work with Expo 86. Still, it was an unbelievably masterful performance. I can’t think of anyone else who could have pulled it off like him.” – NH
James Moore, Conservative MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam, on the premier:
“When you sit down and talk to Gordon about British Columbia, he knows every city, every village and every community in this province. And he knows them well. I’ve spoken to a lot of MLAs and they agree it’s very rare that he comes to a meeting without knowing exactly what he wants to accomplish or the direction of the agenda. I’ve heard some criticism that he’s a bit too controlling. Because of his anxiousness to get things done, he’s not as big a team player as he could be. He kind of takes everything on, rather than delegating, and I think that is, perhaps, a flaw. You know, as a British Columbian, I have my policy disagreements with his government. I think he could cut taxes more than he has. He could focus spending on things like transportation and infrastructure more than others. But overall, it’s pretty hard to say that he’s been anything but a clear success. There’s no denying that we have more disposable income, lower unemployment rates, higher standards of living and better real estate prices than in 1996. You have to give credit where it’s due. I’m a federal Conservative member of parliament and, sitting here thinking about it, I don’t have the faintest idea of how he votes in a federal election. I don’t know if he’s a Paul Martin Liberal or a Jean Chrétien Liberal or a Stephen Harper Conservative. He has this ability to take in all points of view and come up with a quintessentially British Columbian approach to things. He’s not a blind ideologue and that pragmatism is part of what makes him very effective. [pagebreak] As a testament to the respect that the BC Liberal Party caucus has for him, when he was getting beaten up by the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, the public sector unions and the New Democrats for some of the policy decisions he made as premier – and all the way through his drunk-driving charge in Hawaii – his party stood by him. They realized that, in spite of his flaws – and we all have flaws – that he’s really irreplaceable as a leader. He is the real heart and soul of the provincial government.” – Jessica Werb
Martha Piper, president of UBC, on the VANOCchief:
“To me, John Furlong epitomizes what we see as the Olympic spirit. Initially with the Games, there were a lot of dissenting voices. But you don’t hear that anymore, do you? I don’t hear anybody saying, ‘Oh, this is going to be an awful thing.’ When you meet with John, you have confidence. I guess that’s the word. You have confidence in him. He’s actually getting things done. You know, it’s one thing to become a CEO when everything’s already in place for you. It’s another thing to become a CEO and be expected to perform as a CEO, but to have to build the infrastructure, networks and people. This is a highly diverse constituency he’s working with – everybody from the Olympians and the Olympic movement to labour, to organizations like UBC and Richmond, to the provincial and federal governments, to the sponsors. It isn’t dissimilar to the kind of constituencies that I’m involved in, and I know the challenges. Sometimes those constituencies’ needs come into conflict and I think he’s doing an extraordinary job. I mean, just look at what he’s delivered on the sponsorship side. These are the largest sponsorships that have ever been brought to an Olympic Games and we’re not even finished yet. And this has happened in a very short time frame. I didn’t know him until we were awarded the Olympics. At that time, it was hard not to read about the controversy around his appointment. But when I finally did meet him, I was impressed. We discussed the UBC skating arena and whether we were actually going to get that part of the bid. It was business, of course, but there was also a genuineness and a sincerity about him. My sense is that when he tells you something, he means it. And you can count on it. Plus, there’s a sparkle to him. I’m not talking flippantly – I mean that sincerely. He just enjoys things. He enjoys being with people and he enjoys the challenges. He’s very positive and that means the people around him are positive. To me, he has two challenges with the Olympics: one is to do it and the other is to bring everybody along. You know anybody who’s in charge of the Olympics is going to have influence. But with John, it’s more than that. It’s his style, his values and his leadership. You could have had somebody who was great on the operations side and who’d get it done, but who would leave in their wake a lot of disenchanted people. I don’t think that’s John Furlong.” – JW
Eamon Hoey, Toronto-based telecom management consultant, on the Telus boss:
“When Darren Entwistle came onto the scene, the senior people at Bell were saying, ‘He’s too young, too rash, we don’t have to worry about him.’ They thought he lacked depth. Time has proven the contrary. He had a vision and now he’s proven he’s got the tenacity to stick to it. He changed the Canadian telecom landscape completely. Darren Entwistle rolled out a plan to go national and he’s been relentless in his execution of that vision. It’s a much more competitive market today than five years ago, largely because of that. Now major national business consumers such as banks have a real choice. It takes time to build that. When Darren and his management team were making some bold moves, like buying Clearnet, they were highly criticized by investment bankers and shareholders. But in hindsight, they weren’t being cowboy-ish at all. Darren took a very conservative route with his company. When the stock fell to $6.95, a lot of people on Bay Street were saying that’s the end of Telus. Now, they are exporting telecom services across Canada and creating jobs in B.C. The fact is, the restructuring of Telus into what it is today has largely been done by Darren Entwistle. He’s also shown the business people in B.C. that you can move from a legacy on regulated business and become a market leader. He’s had real influence on that front: He said, ‘I can’t go on with this cost structure if I’m going to be competitive going forward.’ By doing this, he set an example for the rest of B.C.’s companies that there is a way, but you’re going to have to be hard nuts about it. He’s not saying no to unions, or that working people don’t have a right to organize, but he’s saying this is no longer tolerable. He could have just done like a lot of companies in B.C. and passed the costs down to consumers or taxpayers or shareholders, but he didn’t. By creating a company that can compete, he’s actually ensuring long-term employment for workers. He is an extraordinary leader – when you’re around him, it’s electric. I’ve met a lot of CEOs and you can always tell when you’re around real leadership. There’s a difference between Darren and leaders people follow because they like them. His leadership has got real substance.”
Bill Levine, Western Corporate Enterprises chair, on the deal maker:
“I’ve been working with Jack on an ongoing basis since 1970. While other great people have contributed much to the province’s economy, it is hard to say who else is at his level. He’s extremely bright but more important, he’s very insightful with people. His many successes are the direct result of his insights into people and his trust in them. More than the buildings, more than the enterprises he has created, Jack’s greatest contributions to the economy are the leaders of the real-estate industry. If you look around at the business in Vancouver, as well as Seattle and southern California, you will find many leaders who got their first start with Jack. Here’s a guy who is very trusting and open to other people’s agendas. Take the 2010 Olympics, for example. Did you ever, at any point along the bid development process, hear of any dissention? Did the First Nations stakeholders ever publicly raise any concerns that they weren’t treated fairly all the way through? They could have done so many things, but they didn’t. Why didn’t they? Because they were included in the process, they were respected, listened to, and weren’t condescended to. And that is Jack’s talent – to bring people together, to trust them, to listen to them. Being inclusive like this doesn’t have to mean losing sight of your purpose. It means trying to find a way to achieve your goals and accommodate the needs of others. Jack never takes his eye off the ball, he never forgets where he is going. Does his approach work? Let me put it this way: Jack Poole has closed more deals in his career than a dozen typical business people will close in their entire lives.” – James Glave
6. BOB RENNIE, Rennie Project Marketing
Jason Craik, president of MAC Real Estate Corp., on the condo master:
“All you have to do is read the papers to understand that Bob has been a leader in the industry that’s been driving our economy over the last four or five years, since the government has changed. He’s really embraced the vision that Vancouver City Hall and director of planning Larry Beasley have for Vancouver. We came out of the doldrums and Bob was leading the way. To be honest with you, Bob’s got some large developers and what they really need is confidence. He does a great job of giving them the guts to go ahead with large, substantial projects that really change the face of our city. Look at the Shangri-La project. I think there was a question in everybody’s minds last year about how well it was really going to do and whether our city was ready for a dynamic project like that. Well, Bob just blew everybody’s socks off. When he really believes in something, you can feel it. You can feel that energy. As a young guy in a thriving industry, and being successful myself, I look to him. We all watch Bob. We’re looking to either do it as well or even better than he does. And even though we’re competitors, he’s very easy to talk to and very supportive. He’s usually the first guy to give us a call when we’ve had great success on a special project. That, to me, says a lot. He’s quite gracious that way and he’s also fairly humble. That’s one thing that young guys like me struggle with when we’re on top of the world: humility. I call him the Wayne Gretzky of condo sales. Everyone uses him to set the standard. He’s always on the cutting edge and doing things first. Right now the market doesn’t seem to be that competitive, it seems like everybody’s doing well. But when – not if – the market does slow down, we’re really going to see the cream rise to the top, and there’s no question that Bob is going to be part of the cream. We all talk about raising the bar, but Bob sets the bar.” – JW [pagebreak]
7. CAROLE TAYLOR, B.C. Minister of Finance
Christina Anthony, Investment Advisor with Odlum Brown and founder of the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs, on her role model: “To me, someone of influence means someone you look up to. You either want to be like them or you’re constantly learning from them – somehow they influence your life. And I think you could say all of those things about Carole. She’s especially an inspiration for women in business. I think it’s in part just the nature of her gender. But she’s also a woman who was able to have a great work-life balance and achieve everything she was able to while still being a mother and raising a family, and making it all work. She is the role model that shows you really can have it all. She spoke at the graduation event for the Forum of Women Entrepreneurs training class this past June, just after she was named minister of finance. She walked everyone through her idea that you really can have it all and how she did it while not really compromising much in any one area. Her main piece of insight was to try to eliminate the feelings of guilt and worry that it can’t be done, and just do it. And, of course, to be smart and efficient about balancing time. That may mean hiring out some things to help yourself, whether it’s cleaning services, child care or more assistance in your workplace. I find, personally, that I’ve already tried to implement a lot of the things that she spoke about. And if you look at Carole, her children turned out great, obviously her business successes have been unbelievable and she’s living a wonderful, happy life. She’s also a charming person to be around. When she talks to you, she genuinely seems to care about what you’re saying and engages you. She’s very smart, well-spoken and always seems very put together. And then there’s her energy. It just exudes from her. When you meet her and speak to her, you can tell how she got to where she is. You can really read that with certain people and you can see that with her.” – JW
8. DAVID EMERSON, Federal Minister of Industry
Jake Kerr, Managing partner of Lignum Forest Products, on his former nemesis: “Emerson is a complex guy and, with a doctorate in economics, he’s a brilliant guy academically. He’s had such a varied career. He’s had a lot of jobs in public service, including serving as B.C.’s deputy premier of finance and as president of a bank. Intellectually, he has always been very sound. He loves to question things. He’s got quite an impressive resumé, yet the funny part about him is he is a pretty humble guy. He’s an old hockey player from the Prairies, he’s not a fussy guy and he’s not a clothes horse. He likes hanging out with the guys, having a beer. He has an ego like the rest of us, but when he meets someone new, he asks a lot of questions that are almost personal in nature. He is very interested in people and what makes them tick. I’ve always felt that Emerson should be back in government. He is in the perfect job now – he is really a public policy guy. He was an effective CEO, and he is economically and intellectually rigorous. At Canfor, he took a company that had been family-run, where it was time for some outside management, and he brought discipline to what they were doing and turned it around. But Emerson was frustrated in corporate life that he didn’t have more influence over public policy. And he is now – particularly with the softwood issue – at a point where he can say things and pull levers that might actually make policy change. In ¬business you can lobby and you can moan and you can bitch all you want, but you can’t really make policy shifts – and Emerson is now at a point where he can. I admire him a lot. In my role in the softwood debate, I was at one point the chief negotiator for Canada and, to use a hockey analogy, I am inclined to go into the corner with my elbows up. So does he. Emerson goes into the corner with his elbows up.” – JG
Alex Campbell, Chair of Thrifty Foods, on the retail king: “I’ve known Brandt Louie for about 15 years. In terms of his management style, he has taken some pages out of his father’s book and is trying to improve on them. London Drugs has a very solid reputation built over many years and Brandt has a very strong management team there. He’s the fellow who took London Drugs forward. They were very aggressive on price, selection and advertising – they have a good solid foundation thanks to Louie. The competition doesn’t like to see ’em coming. As far as selling his ideas, he has his own opinions and he’s quite forceful about how he presents them. Brandt knows what he wants. At the same time, he has quite a sense of humour. About three years ago, he was on the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors’ board of directors. They held their annual meeting in Halifax and, in a nod to the province’s Scottish heritage, they asked eveyone to show up at the event in Scottish attire. I wore a kilt, so did most of the other guys – but Brandt showed up in the full ensemble, including a cape and bonnet. He called himself Mr. McLouie.” – JG
10. DAVID HO, Chair, Harmony Airways
Francesco Aquilini, Managing director of Aquilini Investment Group, on a visionary:
“I’ve known David Ho for 10 years and he has a great deal of vision, courage and integrity. He is a man of his word, a very loyal and generous guy. He has been a good friend to me in good times and bad. A few years back, in the mid-’90s, I almost did a big deal in Beijing. Ho has quite a bit of expertise in that market, and thank goodness he talked me out of it. Ten years ago, he bought Gray Beverage – the franchise bottler for Pepsi – and people thought he was crazy, that it was a bad deal, that he paid too much for it. Well, within a few years he turned it around and sold it for a big profit. And now people are saying the same things about Harmony. It takes a lot of courage to set up a Vancouver-based airline, it’s a very complex business, there are a lot of moving parts, and Ho was able to put a strong team together. He is very good at assessing and growing talent and selecting management. He also has a lot of access to capital – you put that together and you’ve got a powerful thing. Thanks to his efforts, China is now in the process of putting Canada on the ‘approved tourist’ list, which loosens the visa requirements for visitors. When Australia ¬landed that, tourism from China increased by a million or more. Harmony is poised to pick up on that here. If you were to sum it up in one or two words, Ho is a business-builder. He can look at a business, see the opportunity and has the courage to take the risk. He can put the team together and make it all happen, and build it up from scratch. It’s a rare talent and it’s one that he’s got.” – JG
Most influential list
1. Jim Pattison, Jim Pattison Group
2. Gordon Campbell, B.C. Premier
3. John Furlong, CEO, VANOC
4. Darren Entwistle, CEO, Telus
5. Jack Poole, Chair, VANOC
6. Bob Rennie, Rennie Project Marketing
7. Carole Taylor, B.C. Minister of Finance
8. David Emerson, Federal Minister of Industry
9. Brandt Louie, CEO, H.Y. Louie
10. David Ho, Chair, Harmony Airways
11. Dave Mowat, CEO, VanCity
12. Colin Hansen, B.C. Minister of Economic Development
13. Martha Piper, President, UBC
14. Larry Berg, CEO, Vancouver International Airport Authority
15. Carole James, B.C. NDP Leader
16. Don Mattrick, Former president, EA
17. Terry Hui, CEO, Concord Pacific
18. Joe Houssain, CEO, Intrawest
19. Milton Wong, President, HSBC Asset Mgmt
20. Dan Muzyka, Dean, Sauder School
21. Pat Jacobsen, CEO, Translink
22. John Reid CEO, Terasen
23. Jim Sheppard, CEO, Canfor
24. Rick Thorpe, B.C. Minister of SmallBusiness and Revenue
25. Michael Walker, Former Exec. Dir., Fraser Institute