On the road in Quebec City and Montreal
Greetings, I've gone international. For the next few years I'll be visiting via bicycle the largest companies OUTSIDE the United States.
My modus operandi will still be the same. Approximately a month before my anticipated arrival at a company I send a postcard- size letter along with several news clippings to the CEO. The letter explains my unusual odyssey and asks if someone at the company can meet with me and answer questions concerning the enterprise and its headquarters.
Newspapers in many of the cities visited have written stories concerning my quirky trek so; I enclose several of those along with the letter to lend creditability. Mention is also made of my filing stories for Bloomberg Business News (my sponsor).
In the letter, I give the company a week's time frame when I'll be dropping in for a visit. Why can't I be more specific? It's tough to pinpoint a month or more in advance, the exact day I'm going to show up in a city, many times-thousands of miles away.
Well, my christening into the international business world is greeted with a resounding thud. Industrial-Alliance Group, a mutual life insurance company with 1993 revenues CN$1.6 billion, net income CN$27 million and assets CN$6 billion, hasn't a clue as to what the heck this guy on a bike is doing at their headquarters.
I'm in Sillery, a suburb about two miles from downtown Quebec City (population 200,000). The three-story, company-owned, 160,000 square foot headquarters is set back from St. Louis Road, the main drag through town. Built in 1951 and looking it, the orange brick building's dated look is covered up nicely by the well-kept grounds, which includes a gigantic elm tree out front.
Though Julie Veilleux, information agent, says the company never received the advance material, she does her best to answer my questions sitting in the company cafeteria.
My first question? I want to know what's with all the pictures of elephants in the lobby. Veilleux says the big lumbering pachyderms are the company's logo. Why? Let me just repeat what a company brochure says about elephants: "A symbol of strength, power and solidity, the elephant commands respect. However, because of its overwhelming gentleness, its considerable presence poses no threat. The elephant is regarded favorably and it is generally agreed that the creature is extremely intelligent and has a strong sense of belonging to its herd and its family". Reading on: "Industrial-Alliance shares these qualities: it is a giant, powerful, protective and solid company, yet poses no threat".
The company is 104 years old and its name is the result of a merger between Industrial and Alliance in 1987.
Over 700 employees work here, with the back of the property butting up to a quiet residential area.
The main entrance is now on the side of the building. The former main entrance hall, which faces the street, is graced by an immense Jean Dallaire fresco. CEO Raymond Garneau's office is a few steps down the hall from the first floor fresco.
Quebec City, in Quebec Province (in the US we have states-Canada has provinces), is 160 miles north of Montreal. Quebec City's location on high bluffs overlooking the St. Lawrence River, underscores its strategic importance to the military hundreds of years ago and explains why it's the largest walled city in North America.
Something different about Canada: In the US, the Sunday newspaper is traditionally the biggest edition of the week. Here, it's Saturday.
I'm 70 miles northeast of Montreal and though it has been raining all day, the countryside of rolling hills and fertile farmland is gorgeous. In the center of all this lies Kingsey Falls, a one-stoplight town of 800. It's here where Cascades Inc., an international manufacturer of pulp and paper products, calls home.
Founded in 1964 by Chairman of the Board Bernard Lemaire, Cascades became a public company in 1982. Revenues in 1993 were CN$1.6 billion, net loss CN$59 million.
Unlike at Industrial-Alliance Group in Quebec City, people here are aware of my pending arrival and I receive a warm welcome from Robert Hall, Vice President-legal counsel and Alain Ducharme, Vice President.
Questions are answered as the three of us sit in Chairman's Lemaire's second floor corner office, which overlooks main street (and pretty much only street). Behind us is the company's first mill, which explains why Cascades' head office is here. Matter of fact, Chairman Lemaire has lived in an on-site house since Cascades' founding. I'm told he's grown so accustom to sleeping at night with the bustling noise of the mill that, when the noise stops-he wakes up.
Sixty people work in the two-story building. To get past the small, four-chair lobby area, you have to be buzzed in to the inner sanctum.
Odd and ends: The fitness center contains a whirlpool, the company owns a helicopter and, the nearest freeway is 40 miles away. The company is not and was never related to Boise Cascade.
The boardroom contains something I've never seen before: hanging plants. Three real ones hang over the oak boardroom table. There's also a large wall clock in the boardroom with the words "no smoking" inscribed across it.
I like the story concerning the origin of the color green in the company's logo-which is the name Cascades in green lettering above an unraveling roll of paper. As Ducharme tells it, his uncle had a Texaco gas station right across the street (it's now a company parking lot). Every year Texaco would give his uncle green paint to repaint the station. The uncle never painted the place and of course over a period of years the gallons piled up. One day, Bernard Lemaire-founder and current Chairman, wandered over and told Ducharme's uncle he was going to repaint the mill buildings and asked if Duchmare's uncle had any advice on what color and where to buy the paint. The buildings ended up being painted green. Need I say more?
On the road in Montreal
If you're the biggest company in Canada, where does one call home? In one of the newest and tallest high-rises in town, of course. Bell Canada, the largest Canadian telecommunications operating company and Northern Telecom Ltd., a manufacturer of telecommunication equipment, are the two principal subsidiaries of BCE, a holding company. Revenues in 1993 were CN$20 billion, net loss CN$750 million.
Charles Labarge, Vice President-Corporate Services, gives me a hearty welcome and a wide-open tour of the corporate offices on the 36th, 37th and 38th floors of the 47-story building. Does BCE lease space in the place? Labarge says that as we speak, paperwork is being finalized for the company buying the one million square foot, year-old building.
How come the 125 employees are not located on the top floors? After the 38th floor the floors start to get smaller as the building comes to a point.
CEO Lynton Wilson isn't in but, left instructions with his secretary to let me check out his office AND use his phone to make a free phone call anywhere in the world my heart desires. Hmmmm, it's a nice offer but my mind suddenly goes blank and I can't recall Boris Yeltsin's number so I pass on the offer. However, I do the same thing I did when checking out the office of Robert Allen, CEO of AT&T. I pick up the phone on Wilson's desk to see if it's a Bell Canada phone. Yep, it is.
Other phones in Wilson's corner office includes an antique 1878 Blake telephone in a glass display case and a working telephone which looks the ones used by Elliott Ness and the gangsters in the old Untouchables television show.
On a table near Wilson's double-sided partners desk sits a humidor. Nearby, the cigar-smoking CEO has one of those red circle signs hanging on a wall. You know, the ones which tell you not to do something by drawing a picture of what you're not suppose to do, then drawing a red circle with a slash through it. This one however is a variation: it reads, "cigar smoking only" and there's a red circle but no slash through it.
Paintings of past CEO's hang on the walls in the boardroom with the table being donut-shaped.
I'm always impressed by bluntness and that's what I get from Daniel Veniez, Vice President-Corporate Affairs for Repap Enterprises. I ask Veniez if there's any particular reason why Repap, a fully integrated forest products company, is headquartered in Montreal. Veniez answers, "actually we could be headquartered anywhere. New York City would be the logical choice because most of our business is done in the states. We're here because our CEO lives here".
Fifty employees occupy the 38th and 39th floors of the second tallest building in Montreal. Built in 1991, the 46-story structure is a real beaut.
The coffee table in the reception area contains the following three magazines: Florida Trend, Advertising Age and Pulp & Paper. Also in the lobby; a glass display case containing a scale model of the "Repap Enterprise", a 162-meter long company ship used to transport paper.
CEO George Petty has a computer in his office and large blown-up picture of his family on the wall. The boardroom is small, with two real plants keeping the mahogany table company.
Revenues in 1993 were CN$1.3 billion, net loss CN$211 million.
It doesn't take long to visit Bombardier, a manufacturer of aircraft, parts & vehicles. Michel Lord, Vice President-Communications, is the one ending up with my advance material. Lacking the courtesy to tell me face to face, Lord's secretary talks to me via the lobby phone and says in a not-very-nice tone "we do not want to participate".
Bombardier (1993 revenues CN$4.8 billion, net income CN$176 million) occupies the 29th and 30th floor in a downtown high-rise. The very small lobby area contains two coffee table-type books on the history of the company. I surmise the close-circuit security camera keeping watch is to make sure the books aren't pilfered.
Boy, it's too bad I detest cigarettes. They're free for the taking in the lobby of Imasco. Imperial Tobacco, a subsidiary, has a remarkable 67.1% market share of smokers in Canada. What's even more surprising is the barely noticeable stench of cigarettes in the lobby.
Imasco (1993 revenues CN$7.9 billion, net income CN$409 million) is a good old-fashioned conglomerate. Besides Imperial Tobacco, the company owns Hardee's, the fast-food operator, Canada Trust (with over CN$46 billion in assets), The Shoppers Drug Mart, a drugstore chain and Genstar, which builds residential communities.
Ann Marie Collette, assistant to Peter McBride-VP-Public Affairs, says 60 people work on the 19th, 20th and 21st floors of the 32-story building, which has been home to Imasco for the last five years.
Formerly called Imperial Associated Company, Imasco's name is derived from adding together the first two letters of its former name.
CEO Purdy Crawford's corner office on the 21st floor is surprisingly small. An oil painting of a nearby street corner at the turn of the century hangs on a wall and there's the distinct stench err-smell of tobacco in the air.
Nothing special about the boardroom although I do note the ashtrays.
Caisse De Depot Et Placement Du Quebec
Created in 1965 by an act of the National Assembly, Caisse De Depot Et Placement Du Quebec is Canada's largest public fund manager. Caisse invests the funds of Quebec Province public pensions and insurance plans, and of various Quebec public bodies. With assets of CN$47 billion and net income of CN$7.7 billion in 1993, Caisse is one of North America's largest financial institutions.
Caisse occupies space in a twin reflective-glass tower complex they own on McGill College Avenue. O.K., since one tower is 20 stories and the other 16 floors, I guess I can't call them twins but other than that minor detail-they're identical. Philippe Gabelier, Vice President-Public Affairs, says 340 employees work on four middle floors of the 20-story tower, which was built in 1979.
McGill College Avenue dead ends a block away. Why? It's where the campus of McGill University starts. From what all the locals tell me, McGill is Canada's most prestigious university-equivalent to our Harvard University.
I make mention of McGill University because CEO Jean-Claude Delorme has sliding glass doors in his corner office, enabling him to step outside and take in the view of the campus. Several oil paintings of Quebec landscapes, done by Quebec artists, hang on his walls.
Laurentian Bank of Canada
Don't have to go far to find the offices of Laurentian Bank of Canada because they're in the same 20-story building as Caisse De Depot Et Placement Du Quebec.
Ronald Monet, Director-Public Affairs says the almost CN$10 billion in assets bank occupies seven floors. The bank, founded in 1846, moved into the building in 1988. Nothing fancy about CEO Henri-Paul Rousseau's corner office on the 20th floor.
Royal Bank of Canada
Built in the 1960's, this 41-story Royal Bank of Canada Building is huge. Shaped like a plus sign, there're four separate wings in the 1.3 million square foot edifice. Directions to the CEO's office finds me on the third floor of the east wing. Before entering the executive offices one has to talk to a security guard sitting in a glass booth (similar to what cashiers at movie theaters sit in). The guard buzzes me in but keeps a vigilant eye as I explain to the receptionist what I'm doing. Stepping away from her desk to ask someone else, she says to take a seat in an adjacent waiting room. While she's gone I try to wander over to the guard booth for some small talk and check out his security monitors but he barks at me to "stay in that area!"
Neil Williams, who recently retired as Manager-General Services, is my contact person. The person who took over his job is on vacation and he's temporarily back to fill in. I'm glad because Williams is a terrific guy and who better to show one around the headquarters of the largest bank in Canada than someone with 42 years of service.
Royal Bank of Canada (with assets of US$124.9 billion) was first chartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1869 to facilitate and finance trade along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. In an interesting piece of trivia, the bank opened offices in the Caribbean before it established branches in the domestic strongholds of Montreal and Toronto.
Though it's called the Royal Bank of Canada Building, the bank leases space, with over 4,000 employees occupying floors 2-13 in all four wings.
Atop the structure is a beacon light, which over the years has become a land marker for planes passing at night. Williams knows this for a fact because there's a standing order to notify the area airport control towers immediately if for some reason the light isn't turned on at night.
Ann Smith, CEO Allan Taylor's secretary, gives me an enthusiastic welcome as I tour Taylor's third floor, middle office. The walls are oak paneling and an antique Persian rug covers most of the oak wood floor. I spot a antique piggy bank and an antique voting box on a shelf, the later I'm told was actually used by the bank. How does the voting box work? It's about the size of a shoebox with a hole in one of the long ends. With your hand containing a black marble, you stick your whole hand into the opening until only the wrist on up is showing. The box is divided in half. If you drop the ball in the right side of the box it's a yea, the left side, nay. That's how the term, "black-balled" came about.
CEO Taylor has dual offices, one here in Montreal and the other in Toronto. Smith says she'll call ahead to make the necessary arrangements so I can check out his Toronto office and the boardroom.
Alcan Aluminium Ltd.
Wow! is the best word to describe Alcan Aluminiumís headquarters complex. First though, it helps to have some background on the surrounding area. Sherbrooke St. is Montreal's version of Beverly Hill's Rodeo Drive. Around the turn of the century Sherbrooke was lined with large Victorian residences, home to the wealthy. Now, many of these residences have been torn down, replaced by office buildings or converted into upscale stores and boutiques. The Kempinski Ritz-Carlton, Westin Park Royal Hotel and quite a few other upper end hotel properties reside in this neighborhood.
Four Victorian homes and a former hotel fronting Sherbrooke St. linked by an atrium to a new six-story aluminum-clad structure in the rear comprise Alcan's headquarters complex, also called Maison Alcan.
Between the very accommodating Michael Miller, Vice President-Corporate Affairs, answering questions and his assistant Maureen Shaughnessy giving me the deluxe 90-minute tour of the impressive facility, I have a great visit.
The six-story aluminum-clad structure is called the Davis building, named after the founding family of Alcan. The art on each of the six floors represents the art and culture of a different country or continent where Alcan operates. The sixth floor is devoted to Canadian art and also contains the employee's lounge for the 130 employees working in the complex. Does your employee lounge contain a working fireplace, piano or terraces? This one does.
A sampling of art in this building includes Etruscan pottery from the 4th century BC, a Japanese screen (made of gold leaf) from the Renaissance Movement, two 19th century Korean chests, samurai armor, a Jamaican painting, two Brazilian wall-hangings, an Intuit tribe Hokhok bird mask and totem pole.
Lining Sherbrooke Street and painstakingly restored to their original glamour are Holland House (built in 1872), Klinkhoff House (built in 1874), the old Berkeley Hotel (built in 1928), Beique House (built in 1894) and Atholstan House (built in 1897).
The original living and dining rooms in the Holland House have been made into two of the largest conference rooms in the complex. One's called the Red room and the other the Green room and I'm sure I don't have explain why. Both rooms have working fireplaces, which I'm starting to find is a given in every room.
The largest of the four homes is Atholstan House (12,700 square feet on four floors) and its original dining room is used today for Alcan's executives. The wood paneling is Honduras mahogany, there're two chandeliers, a working fireplace and the wool carpet reflects the 24K-goldplated frieze in the ceiling. Food is brought up from the basement kitchen via a dumbwaiter.
Originally the Grand Salon of the Atholstan house, it's now used as the boardroom. Silk wallpaper lines the walls, plus there's a working fireplace and a chess set (with aluminum pieces of course) to keep the mahogany boardroom table company.
Both CEO Jacques Bougie and Chairman David Morton have corner offices, both having working fireplaces and views of Sherbrooke street but, rank has it's privileges with Morton occupying the third floor and Bougie the second. Morton sits at a double-sided partners desk and has a ceremonial drum major baton on a shelf.
From the Chairman's office it's down to the huge kitchen in the basement. Why? To see if aluminum pots and pans are used. Shaughnessy has her fingers crossed because she isn't quite sure what we'll find. Turns out it's a draw. Hanging from the rafters are about a dozen aluminum pots and pans and about a dozen copper plated pans.
Alcan's unique and beautifully restored headquarters complex (words don't do it justice) ranks a definite 10 on a scale of 1 through 10. Class act Miller, a Britisher with over 30 years with Alcan, also ranks a 10. Compare my reception here with what happened when visiting competitor Alcoa in Pittsburgh. Revenues in 1993 for Alcan, the world's largest exporter of aluminum, were US$7.2 billion, net loss 104 million.
Nothing fancy about Domtar's 16-story downtown headquarters. Looks to have been built in the early 1970's and with graffiti on the side walls, it's looking run-down. Domtar, (CN$1993 revenues $1.9 billion, net loss CN$111 million) besides being a manufacturer and marketer of writing, newsprint and groundwood specialty paper, also is North America's largest maker of decorative melamine panels and the third largest manufacturer of Gypsum products.
The building's lack of pizzazz is more than made up for by the enthusiastic welcome I receive from Rosanna Altavilla, Advertising Coordinator.
The company leases the building and approximately 300 employees work on 12 floors. Domtar was incorporated in 1929 as the Dominion Tar & Chemical Company Limited and was changed to its present name in 1965. Domtar was the first company to manufacture 100% recycled post-consumer, non-bleached paper.
During a tour of the floors we visit Monic Beaudin, Customer Relations Coordinator, Domtar Security Papers. Domtar is the official supplier of paper to the Canadian government and many other governments around the world. I'm not talking about writing paper but, paper for making currency. Beaudin opens up a locked briefcase and shows off new currency paper the company has recently developed which, according to her, will be almost impossible to be counterfeited. Beaudin says the US is one of the few countries in the world who's currency contains only one color.
My reception at Quebecor, the second largest commercial printer in North America after R.R. Donnelley & Sons, is downright hostile. Headquarters is a company-owned, weary-looking 13-story structure built in the late 1950's or early 1960's.
Three times I drop by and the security guard in the lobby sends me up to the executive floor. No problems with superstition here because the executives are ensconced on the 13th floor. Each visit ends with the cigarette smoking receptionist telling me to try back another time.
On this the fourth visit, Bernard Bujold, Assistant to the President, walks out to the lobby and when I extend my hand for the traditional handshake-I find his doesn't come. Instead, Bujold says in an irritated tone, "what do you want?". I explain what I'm doing and he says he recalls receiving the advance material. Then, in the same irritated tone he again says, "what do you want?".
My visit takes all of three minutes thanks to the abrupt, rude, and abrasive Bujold. How bad is it? Every question asked he rolls his eyes as if it was beneath him to answer. When I ask, "what's the correct way to pronounce the name of your company?", Bujold points to his business card and says "it's right there".
Quebecor also publishes daily newspapers in Winnipeg, Montreal and Quebec City and is the largest publisher of French-language magazines in Canada. Revenues in 1993 were CN$3.1 billion, net income CN$75 million.
Bank of Montreal
Near the shores of the St. Lawrence River lies a five block by ten block area of Montreal known as Old Montreal. During the 18th and 19th century it was the port and commercial center and until the early 1960's it was the financial center of town. Royal Bank of Canada building it's new 41-story headquarters edifice a half dozen blocks farther inland marked the beginning of the end to Old Montreal's status as the money center.
One bank with considerable clout has remained in Old Montreal and tradition has a big part to do with it. Founded in 1817, Bank of Montreal is the oldest chartered bank in Canada and with assets of CN$117 billion-it's Canada's third largest.
Corporate offices are in a blah-looking 21-story, 250,000 square foot building built in 1960. Next door is Bank of Montreal's main branch, constructed in 1847-it's a real beaut!
Answering questions and giving me an extensive tour of the two buildings are Lucie Gosselin, Coordinator-Public Affairs and Yolaine Toussaint, Archivist.
I love CEO Mathew Barrett's beautiful antique roll-top desk in his otherwise, traditionally furnished third floor office. On the other hand, the boardroom table in the boardroom is very untraditional-especially for a bank. I've seen boardroom tables, U-shaped, donut-shaped, oval-shaped, L-shaped, circular-shaped, T-shaped just to name a few. Bank of Montreal's consists of 18 six-foot long rosewood tables lined up in six rows of three-with spaces between the three. "This, or these are the boardroom tables?, I ask, "It looks like it's set up for a meeting or conference room". Seating 55, I'm assured this is the set-up for board meetings.
Walking next door to the Main branch we pass through a small vestibule and then a spectacular 90-foot dome. Upon entering the banking hall, measuring 172 feet by 84 feet and 56 feet from floor to ceiling, one cannot help but "ooh and aahh" at the beauty and splendor of the place. The 32 Corinthian columns, 31 feet high, grouped in fours separated by massive piers of marble add to the grandeur of the room. Ceilings are covered with the design outlined in gold trim. It's a pretty impressive place to do your banking.
Passing under the dome I look up and see doors leading to what look like offices on the fourth floor circling the well formed by the dome. I ask, "What's up there?". I'm told in the olden days senior bank employees customarily lived on the premises and those were the living quarters. Jeez, I bet it was tough to come up with excuses for being late to work for those guys.
Who better to show me around the bank's museum than Toussaint, the person who put the exhibit together. Displays of bank notes, coins, token and gold are displayed along with a collection of working mechanical piggy banks. A sign says to 'Do not touch" the piggy banks but, as we all know, it's who you know-not what you know, and Toussaint grabs some coins and shows me how the various piggy banks work.
Confederation Caisses Populaires Desjardins
After four visits I give up trying to meet with someone at Confederation Caisses Populaires Desjardins, a financial group with over CN$58 billion in assets.
Corporate offices are on the 39th and 40th floors of a 40-story building, part of a large office/shopping/hotel complex several blocks from the heart of downtown.
To get up to the 39th & 40th floors one takes an express elevator, which is manned by a security guard sitting in the elevator. Problem is, he doesn't speak English and I don't speak French. Of course, me being the dumb American I figure if I speak very slow he'll understand. Nope. Lucky for me a security guard who speaks English wanders by and I'm finally taken up.
Stepping off the elevator I encounter another security guard and the receptionist-neither of whom speak English. I wait in the tiny two chair lobby with their Muzak system serenading me with French music while an English-speaking employee is collared. I don't bother trying to read the company's annual report or magazines because they're all in French.
Each visit produces another excuse why someone can't meet with me and I finally give up after deducing I'm getting the runaround.
Sidebar: Reading material, including annual reports, lying about in most company reception areas are in French. Why? It has to do with laws passed in the province of Quebec, where the French-speaking people are paranoid of losing their identity. Examples: businesses cannot display reading materials such as annual reports in English unless the French version is also displayed. All signs in French and English must have the French words displayed first and in bigger letters. Movie theaters in Montreal cannot show new releases in English until the French version is shown first or at the same time.
Odds and Ends
The eighth floor of a high-rise office building houses the executives of Canadian Pacific Ltd., a conglomerate with 1993 revenues of CN$6.6 billion. CEO William Stinson's secretary informs me via the receptionist that everyone is busy the whole week. Checking back several times during the week proves futile. Canadian Pacific holdings includes operating the seventh largest railway system in North America and the largest hotel chain in Canada. Le Chateau Champlain, a CP hotel, is connected next door to corporate headquarters.
My attempt to visit Seagram Co. Ltd., (1993 revenues CN$7.8 billion) is disappointing. Occupying a small building with the name, "House of Seagram" above the door, I get buzzed into the lobby area only to be told by a receptionist sitting behind a glass booth that the headquarters for Seagram is in New York.
Montreal is a fun place to visit and to eat, eat and eat. It's the first city in which I overdosed on sweets. French pastry shops are everywhere and I found myself visiting half a dozen different ones EACH day. Though I'm not Italian or Jewish, you wouldn't know it by my fetish for cannoli and bagels. Montreal is unequivocally home to the world's BEST bagels. More specifically, cinnamon-raisin bagels. Why? It must be they use sweeter raisins or the wood-burning ovens used.
Montreal is known for it's smoked meat sandwiches and the delis in town don't disappoint. My two favorite delis are Bens and Dunns, both located downtown.
On the road to Toronto
Though I don't have any companies to visit in Ottawa, a stop in this city of 400,000 is a definite because it's the nation's capital.
The Parliament building complex is drop-dead gorgeous. It's also one of those cities where you feel safe walking around downtown at 2 am.
A few miles from downtown lies Rideau Hall, a magnificent 100-something room, 88-acre estate which is home to Canada's Governor General. Canada is a constitutional monarchy; under the terms of its Constitution, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 is the Head of State. The Governor General is The Queen's representative in Canada.
Visitors are allowed on the grounds of Rideau Hall and you're even allowed to bring bikes onto the property but as I'm told SEVERAL times NO BIKE RIDING is allowed. I mention this "no bike riding" on the grounds because as you know; rules are made to be broken. Here's what happened: It's about a five city block walk from the entrance of the estate to the mansion. I'm standing outside the mansion's entryway talking to a police officer (quite a few guard the grounds). Looking back toward the entrance we spot someone riding a bicycle coming our way. The officer says, "now don't get any ideas about riding your bike because you see this man riding one". "He gave us the slip this morning and went out for a ride without telling us". Who's this sweaty biker and why is a car full of men tailing him? Turns out it's the Right Honourable Ramon John Hnatyshyn, the Governor General, and the car trailing is full of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (their equivalent to our Secret Service). We exchange greetings as he rides by and at the last second I decide not to ask if he would enjoy having company on his ride.
How much clout does the Governor General have? When Canadian citizens write to the Governor General, they do not need to put a postage stamp on the envelope. The Governor General is appointed by The Queen and on taking office, is accorded the title "Right Honourable" for life and, "His Excellency" for the period the Governor General is in office.
Empire Life Insurance Company
It's 325 miles from Montreal to Toronto and about halfway between the two is Kingston. With a population of 40,000, this waterfront town's top two industries are tourism and believe it or not, prisons.
A block from the waterfront I find the four building headquarters complex of Empire Life Insurance (1993 revenues CN$339 million, net income CN$17 million, almost CN$2 billion in assets).
With over 44 years with the company, who better than Victor Reed, Senior Vice President, to answer questions?
Founded in Toronto in 1923, how did Empire Life end up in Kingston? The company in 1936 took over a failed insurance company who's only asset was its headquarters building in Kingston. So, the move was made.
The oldest of the four buildings was built in the 1850's and it's currently undergoing renovations. Executives occupy the newest and tallest structure. Built in 1988, the six-story, 100,000 square foot building houses 325 of the 550 employees in the complex.
Executives are located on the fourth floor and walking around I notice each office has it's own controls to the Muzak being played. CEO Chris McElvaine occupies a corner office with a view of the water. McElvaine also has a baseball signed by players on the Toronto Blue Jays and, an unsigned hockey puck.
Leaving, I ask Reed why Kingston, the third oldest city in Canada, is home to six prisons. He answers, "Why not?"
On the road in Toronto
Canadian Tire Company
Canadian Tire Company, with 425 stores, is Canada's largest hardgoods retailer. Its stores primarily sell automotive, home improvement and sporting goods products. Canadian Tire also operates 206 gasoline outlets.
Corporate offices are three miles north of downtown Toronto in an 18-story building built in the late 1970's. The company leases space and 1,200 employees occupy nine floors.
I get a great welcome from casually dressed Alan Goodard, Vice President, Corporate Affairs. Why is he casually dressed? Today is Friday and it's a designated casual day. Goodard says management is currently mulling over making the whole work week informal dress.
Walking into CEO Stephen Bachand's middle office on the 18th floor I encounter the first bike seen in a head honcho's office. Why is it here? I'm told Bachand has been test riding the bike down the hallways and if it passes muster--Canadian Tire will carry the model in its stores.
Covering a wall behind Bachand's desk is a huge blown-up picture/poster of a bike ride the company annually sponsors in downtown Montreal. In the corner of the poster it reads: "make dust or eat dust". Other items in Bachand's office includes a picture of him sailing, a computer, two real plants and a picture of Bachand with his golden retriever.
My visit turns out to be financially rewarding because Goddard hands me fifteen dollars. Similar to trading stamps, the company gives out Canadian Tire money that is redeemable for goods at their stores. This multi-colored money in various denominations looks surprisingly real and Goddard says the money has been seen in places like Guam and New Zealand--being passed as legal tender. Goddard originally tries to give me only $10 and I tell him I can't be bought off that cheap so he ups the ante to $15.
Revenues in 1993 were CN$3.5 billion, net income CN$81 million.
Sitting in CEO David Galloway's office, I accuse him of setting me up. He denies it. But, I'm still suspicious. What's this all about? When checking in with the receptionist upon arriving at Torstar's offices, she was reading a book. Not just any book but, a Harlequin book. So? Torstar, besides publishing the Toronto Star, Canada's largest daily newspaper, and owning Miles Kimball, a mail order marketer of home & gift items; it also owns Harlequin Enterprises--the world's largest publisher of romance fiction.
Next to the ugly brown sofa and chairs in the reception area there's a large display of Harlequin books. However, these books don't do me any good because they're in foreign languages. 199 million copies of Harlequin books were sold around the world last year. Some of the books on display include ones in Russian, Japanese, French and Spanish.
Torstar (1993 revenues CN$975 million, loss CN$10 million) and its flagship paper, the Toronto Star, occupy 2/3rds of a 14-story building across the street from the Toronto waterfront. The words, "Toronto Star" in big blue letters are stuck atop the sides of the building. About 1,200 employees work in the place.
Nothing fancy about Galloway's corner office on the sixth floor. There're no sightings of Harlequin books on his coffee table or desk and I decide at the last minute NOT to ask him to let me audition to take over Fabio's role of posing with women on the covers of those romance novels.
Hudson's Bay Company
Boy, this company is old! King Charles 2nd granted on May 2, 1670, a charter incorporating the Hudson Bay Company. The company with 1993 revenues of CN$5.4 billion, net income CN$148 million, operates 101 Hudson's Bay department stores and 285 Zeller Stores across Canada.
Home for Canada's largest retailer is a 32-story building, which is located next door to their downtown Toronto flagship store. Hogging the limelight in the small fifth floor reception area is a life-size wood carving of a fur trader who has his rifle hung over his shoulder and is smoking a pipe.
I meet with nice guy Brian Grose, Vice President, Secretary and Controller, who's been with the company over 30 years.
CEO George Kosich has a soap stone carving along with several Eskimo carvings of bears in his fifth floor corner office. I also make note of his computer and, the Gary Player wedge hiding behind the door.
Instead of Chairman, Hudson's Bay Company uses the term Governor. Hanging on the wall in recently retired Governor Donald McGiverin's office is an oil painting called "Marrakesh". Painted in 1956, who's the artist of this so-so looking work? None other than Winston Churchill. He held an honorary title with the company.
Hanging in the boardroom is the company's original charter from 1670.
I'm not one to beat around the bush so the first question I ask Ken Cherney, Manager-Corporate Communications is; "what's with the big piece of rock in your foyer?". Turns out it's an ore sculpture made from a piece of nickel sulfide taken from thousands of feet underground in a company mine in Sudbury, Ontario. INCO supplies a quarter of the world's supply of nickel.
INCO (1993 revenues CN$2.1 billion, net income $28 million) occupies three floors in Royal Trust Tower, part of a complex of buildings called Toronto-Dominion Centre. Cherney is prepared for my visit and spews out this nugget of information: all their door handles, hinges, as well as elevator doors are made of nickel-containing stainless steel.
Not much to say about CEO Michael Spoko's office on the 21st floor. Part of the company's corporate art collection consists of 24 factory scenes by Jereme Cuneo. Did you know Harry Galloy, a INCO employee, invented the modern day stainless steel sink in 1948?
Visiting Toronto-Dominion Bank, the fifth largest bank in Canada with over CN$ 85 billion in assets, adds a wrinkle to my extensive collection of business cards. Meeting with J. Urban Joseph, Vice Chairman, he hands me his business card and it's typical of most other business cards except his is filled with small puncture holes. Turns out Joseph's card is also in Braille.
Headquarters is a 54-story, company-owned building with 5,500 TD employees occupying floors 2 through 25.
Though I meet CEO Dick Thomson in his 11th floor corner office I forget to ask him why he's on the 11th floor instead of the second or 54th floor, which is where the boardroom is located.
Owning nine AM and seven FM radio stations, the Canadian Home Shopping Network (Canada's only cable home shopping network), Rogers Cantel Mobile Communications (Canada's largest wireless telephone company), 74 video rental stores operated under the name Rogers Video and, a television cable system serving almost two million customers, it's safe to say Rogers Communications is one of Canada's biggest players in the information highway.
Rogers Communications (1993 revenues CN$1.3 billion, loss CN$287 million) calls home the 64th floor of the 70-story Scotia Plaza. The building is one of the newest and tallest high-rises in Toronto.
The company's logo is the name "Rogers" in bright red lettering with the "o" colored to look like a globe. Red is popular in the reception area as well with the leather sofa, three leather chairs and large vase filled with fresh flowers all done in bright red. A display of antique radios and phonographs built by Rogers in 1928 take up part of the reception area. The antiques let you know the company's roots in the communications goes way back.
Meeting with George Fierheller, Vice Chairman, he says the company recently moved into the building and 60 employees work on the floor.
Sitting behind his double-sided, metal trim-leafed desk CEO Edward Rodgers has a spectacular view. On the walls hangs three oil paintings of old sailing ships and I also note the binoculars on the window sill. The positioning of Rodgers' desk and chair is unusual: sitting in his chair Rodgers can look down the long hallway corridor and see who's coming and going. This also works in reverse, meaning people like myself in the reception area can look down the long hall and see Rodgers at his desk.
The Molson Companies
Still in Scotia Plaza but now on the 36th floor I meet with Veronica Ramsay, Assistant to CEO Marshall Cohen, and Mary-Anne Fabok, Public Affairs Coordinator for The Molson Companies.
The Molson Companies (1994 revenues with fiscal year ending March 31 CN$3 billion, net income CN$110 million) major business segments consists of: Molson Breweries, the largest brewer in Canada and the largest exporter of Canadian beer to the United States, Diversey Corporation, a cleaning and sanitizing business, Beaver Lumber Company, a retailer of lumber and building materials and, The Montreal Canadians hockey club.
Owning the hockey team explains the funny and colorful paper mache caricatures of hockey players found throughout the floor. My favorite shows two players kneeling and "confessing" to a referee instead of a priest.
CEO Cohen's oak floor corner office contains three real plants, no computer and a bowl containing real fruit.
The company's last four digits in its phone number "1786" are significant because that's the year the company was founded. Why do I see Molson bank notes on display in glass cases? Way, way back the company owned its own bank and printed its own money.
Ramsay asks what's my favorite beer. I answer, "Miller Genuine Draft". She gives me a coupon good for a twelve pack of Molsons. I tell her, "Thanks, but I'm on a bike, how am I suppose to carry the beer?" Says Ramsay, "Well Paul, we expect you to drink it before you leave town".
Bank of Nova Scotia
The third company I'm visiting in 70-story Scotia Plaza is the building's namesake; Bank of Nova Scotia, the CN$107 billion in asset bank.
Standing in the huge lobby of the two million square foot building, Mark Wright, Assistant Manager-Public Affairs, points out a gigantic mural on a wall titled "Waterfall" by Derek Besant. At 33 by 14 meters, it's the largest indoor mural in Canada.
Canada's third largest bank leases its space in Canada's second tallest building.
CEO Peter Godsoe occupies a middle office on the seventh floor. I can't verify this because Wright gets the word from higher ups that my request to see Godsoe's office and the boardroom is denied.
Bank of Nova Scotia will be 10% owners of the Toronto Raptors, the new NBA team starting up next year.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
With CN$141 billion in assets, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) is Canada's second largest bank.
Though the executives are located in the 57-story Commerce Court Building, Rob McLeod, Manager-Media Relations and Heather Whyte-Media Advisor, tell me the company occupies three other buildings. One, CIBC's old 34-story headquarters was the tallest structure in the British Commonwealth when it was built in 1931. Over 10,000 CIBC employees work in the four downtown buildings, occupying about a million square feet of office space.
Sharon Marconi, Assistant to the Chairman, takes me up to see the boardroom on the 56th floor and the table is HUGE. Seating 51, it's definitely the largest octagon-shaped boardroom table I've come across.
Walking into CEO Al Flood's fifth floor office produces a big smile on my face. Why? A BLOOMBERG sits prominently on his desk. Other items includes a globe, a whale bone shaped like a walrus and, a replica of the 1992 World Series cup won by the Toronto Blue Jays-CIBC owns part of the club. Why is Flood on the fifth floor? Someone speculates it might have something to do with the fire escape only reaching up the fifth floor.
Moore Corporation Ltd.
So, the world's largest manufacturer of business forms gets the honor of occupying the top floor of the tallest building in Canada. Moore Corporation's 75 employees on the 72nd floor of First Canadian Place look down upon just about everything and everyone except for the nearby CN Tower, which is the world's tallest free-standing structure.
Except for the views there's nothing out of the ordinary about the offices and I tend to agree with Shelia Macisaac, Personnel Supervisor's, assessment.
Looking out of CEO Retro Braun's office (with a drop-dead view) I'm told on a clear day one can see Rochester, NY--across the water 25 miles away.
Revenues in 1993 were US$2.3 billion, loss US$77 million.
Cineplex Odeon Corporation
Always doing business with those Hollywood-types I'm figuring the offices of Cineplex Odeon, the largest movie theater chain in Canada and the second largest in the US (behind United Artist), will be flashy and in a high-profile building. Wrong. Corporate offices are five miles north of downtown in a discreet, company-owned, three-story building formerly housing insurance agents.
Meeting with Howard Lichtman, Executive Vice President-Marketing and Communications, I learn the chain's first theater opened up in 1965--only a couple miles from where we sit.
Corporate employees receive this great perk: unlimited free access to movies playing in Cineplex Odeon theaters (we're talking 1,630 screens in 365 locations across North America).
Employees eat in a company cafeteria done-up in 1950's style--with booths and a juke-box playing free tunes.
The orange marble floor in the boardroom is unusual and so are the wicker-type chairs.
The first floor contains two movie screening rooms. One is strictly for executives and seats 15 comfortably in leather seats that swivel. The other, used primarily to screen movies for the media movie reviewers, holds 35. Perusing both rooms I notice neither contains sticky soda syrup or popcorn kernels on the floors, which always seem to be present in the theaters I patronize.
You know how sometimes you're just too darn lazy to stand in line at the concession stand. Lichtman says the company is experimenting this summer with carts looking like souped-up shopping carts wheeling down the aisles selling goodies. Lichtman says cashiers eagerly vie to get cart duty. Why? One word: tips.
Revenues in 1993 were CN$546 million, net income CN$1 million.
George Weston Ltd.
Shades of the Jetsons and Star Trek! Without a doubt, the white, saucer-like reception desk from which the receptionist greets you at George Weston Ltd. is the most bizarre I've encountered. How does one get out of this craft-like contraption? Press a button and a section lifts up--just like in all those space movies. I ask the receptionist what's the most popular words that come out of visitor's mouths upon seeing the set-up? It's "Beam me up Scotty".
I'm on the 19th floor of a 20-story, company-owned building called Weston Centre located six miles north of downtown. The saucer-like reception desk isn't the only unusual item here. A 19-foot tall totem pole carved from a 100-year old red cedar tree also shares the lobby limelight. Christo lines the lobby walls with five large drawings. You remember Christo, he's the artist who does stunts such as lining up thousands of big pink umbrellas across miles of California landscape. The drawings are the original sketches for the project.
Thinking what I've seen in the lobby is just the tip of the iceberg you can understand my persistence in coming back on five different occasions over a period of seven days to try to meet with someone. The CFO is suppose to be my contact person but he's out all week. Joanne Brown, Assistant Manager-Community Affairs ends up answering my questions while we sit on a big half-circle brown leather sofa in the lobby. I never get past the lobby. I can't see the CEO's office because CEO Galen Weston is a "very private person". My response line to this is: "then what's he doing running a publicly-held company?"
George Weston Ltd., one of Canada's biggest companies with revenues in 1993 of CN$11.9 billion and net income $57 million, owns Loblaw Companies-the largest food distributor in Canada, owns Weston Resources-a forest products and fish processing company and, Weston Foods-a bakery, dairy and confectionery food processor.
Four Seasons Hotels Inc.
Fours Seasons Hotels operates the world's largest network of five-star luxury hotels and resorts (38) primarily operating under the brand names of Four Seasons or Regents.
Corporate offices are 10 miles northeast of downtown Toronto and less than a half mile from the Inn on the Park, the company's second property. The 165-room Four Seasons Motor Hotel, the company's first property that opened in downtown Toronto in 1961, no longer exists.
It's hard to believe when Nan Wilkins, Executive Assistant to Chairman Isadore Sharp, tells me the company-owned, one-story, 36,000 square foot building formerly housed a printing plant. Renovated in 1985 when the company bought the building, its modern exterior blends in well with the lushly landscaped grounds filled with sculptures and all kinds of colorful flowers. CEO Sharp, an architect, designed the changes.
What looks like a disappointing visit turns into a great visit thanks to the take charge attitude of Wilkins. It's 9 AM and Wilkins comes walking in the front door to work. The receptionist stops her and explains why I'm here. Wilkins says they hadn't received my advance material, but never-the-less proceeds to walk me to her desk, sits me down, graciously answers questions and then gives me a tour of the place. I'm really impressed with this neat lady.
Almost 100 employees work in the square-shaped donut building containing a sculpture-filled courtyard in the middle. CEO Sharp's sparsely decorated middle office next to the courtyard contains at least 20 family pictures. Most of his pictures are displayed in a large armoire which has all the glass removed.
Revenues in 1993 were CN$1.3 billion, loss CN$119 million.
The Canada Life Assurance Company
Founded in Hamilton, Ontario in 1847, Canada Life, with assets over CN$22 billion, has the distinction of being the first Canadian life insurance company.
Corporate offices are in downtown Toronto in a three-building complex located next door to the US Consulate. The oldest, tallest and most impressive-looking of the three was built in 1931, stands 23-stories and has a pointed weather beacon atop its roof which was added on in 1951. The other two built in 1972 and 1993, stand eight-stories and 12 stories, respectively. Over 1,300 employees work in the three buildings which contain 900,000 square feet of space.
Answering questions and walking me around is Kelly Sheard, Director-Corporate Communications. Canada Life (1993 revenues CN$4.3 billion, net income CN$129 million) is the first company visited having a pelican as its corporate logo. Why? Sheard says a pelican in Greek mythology is protective.
On the first floor of the newest building finishing touches are being made in a conference room called the Environmental room. It's furnished with real trees, plants, a stream of running water dressed up to look like a brook and, hundreds of holes in the walls. On the other side of one of the walls, lines of wiring connect into computers. What's going on here? Sheard says a local university is conducting tests on how outside and inside air affects working conditions.
Touring the company's fitness facility I come across a punching bag. Of the over 1,500 companies visited-it's only the third time I've see one (the other two being mail-order catalog companies: Fingerhut in Minneapolis, MN and Land's End in Dodgeville, WI). Of course I have to ask: Do employees put a picture of the CEO's mug on the bag? Sheard laughs and says "no".
As expected there's is a 13th floor (I've found insurance companies NOT to be superstitious). The boardroom on the 15th floor contains oil paintings of past CEOs, has yellow walls, green chairs and the room has a definite musty smell to it.
Manulife Financial is the holding company for The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company, Canada's biggest insurer with CN$38 billion in assets. Revenues in 1993 were CN$7.4 billion, net income CN$187 million.
It's safe to say the company was well-connected when it was established back in 1887; its founding President was Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada's first prime minister.
I get a great reception thanks to the following trio answering my questions and walking me around: Richard Muller, Vice President, Michael Doughty, Manager-Public Relations and Jacquelyn Sloane-Public Relations Coordinator.
Two miles north of downtown (mid-town) sits the formidable-looking three-building headquarters complex. You enter via an impressive rotunda built in 1983 to link the old and new buildings. The interior of the rotunda is done in marble, bronze and stained glass, with the chandelier and fountain giving it a strange kind of traditional yet contemporary look. The exterior is clad in copper shingles. I'm told it was the first "domed" structure to be built in Canada in over 50 years. Inside the rotunda lies an unusual piece of art done by Cornelius Krieghoff, a Canadian artist from the mid-1800's. Titled "Autumn Portage", it's painted on an iron table-top and weighs 350 pounds.
The buildings, built in 1925 and 1983, aren't tall but, bulky-totaling one million square feet. Over 1,700 employees work in the complex.
The good-looking 15,000 square foot fitness center contains an indoor banked track (20 times around equals a mile). No sweaty sock smell here: change rooms are equipped with saunas, hair dryers, showers and day-lockers.
There's a computer controlled greenhouse on the grounds (shaped like a rotunda to match the big one) where the gardeners cultivate plants for the insides of the buildings.
The CEO has a corner office on the 11th floor because the 12th floor contains executive dining rooms. The boardroom walls are lined with portraits of past Presidents and the spiffy-looking cherrywood boardroom table with a burled maple inset is oval-shaped.
Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada
Compared to the great receptions at Canada Life and Manulife, my visit to Sun Life, Canada's second largest insurer, is a real dud. Corporate offices are in a reflective blue-glassed, company-owned 27-story building in downtown Toronto. CEO John McNeil's secretary comes down to the lobby and doesn't seem to understand what I'm doing. She refers me to someone and it turns out it's the donations department. Calling her back she declines to help me further.
Pressing on solo, I spend the next three days making phone calls and being passed around to various people. Finally, Rick Winston, Media Relations Director, agrees to meet with me. Where's his office? Down the street in another building. Jeez, I HATE going down the street to another building to ask questions about a building I'm not even in. It also usually means I don't get to visit the boardroom or CEO's office because the person I'm meeting with is too lazy or many times--too afraid to ask permission because he/she is way down the hierarchy ladder.
Sun Life, with CN$34 billion in assets, 1993 revenues of CN$8.2 billion and net income of CN$151 million, is the largest group life insurer in Canada. The company manages an additional CN$44 billion-primarily in mutual funds. Sun Life owns Massachusetts Financial Services Company, the oldest mutual fund company in the US.
As predicted I don't get to tour the headquarters building. I'm told the executives occupy the 6th floor while the top floor (27th) contains executive dining rooms.
This is one of those few times where waiting in the reception area for an hour pays dividends. I'm on the sixth floor of a renovated shipping terminal on the Toronto waterfront. The top three floors are condominiums, the middle floors are offices and the bottom two floors are retail shops. Abitibi-Price, a paper manufacturer and distributor of office products with 1993 revenues of CN$1.9 billion, net loss CN$122 million, occupies the whole, long sixth floor.
William Brown, Vice President-Corporate Communications, is my contact person and I'm waiting for him to finish meeting with someone else. The waiting is no problem though because I'm sitting in the reception area flirting--oops, I mean talking to Tammie Connors, a very lovely receptionist. CEO Ronald Oberlander walks by and Connors introduces me to him. Oberlander sits down and chats for a few minutes before I talk him into showing me his office. Not big, it's a middle office with three real plants and a view of the harbor. Several paintings of northern Canadian landscapes hang on the walls.
Meeting with Brown I find out 225 employees work on the floor. The company moved here two years after being located on the 13th floor of a downtown office building. Brown kiddingly explains there's irony in the move, "we go from the 13th floor of a building to one called the terminal building". Abitibi is a region in northern Canada and there was a Mr. Price.
John Labatt Ltd.
John Labatt Ltd., Canada's second largest brewer and owner of the Toronto Blue Jays baseball club, occupies the second and third floor of BCE Place. The good-looking, 45-story high-rise is Toronto's newest.
While waiting in the small lobby to meet with Lorne Stephenson, Vice President-Corporate Affairs, I admire the glass display cases filled with bottles of the various beers brewed. Labatt's the originator of "ice brewing"--which seems to be the latest beer craze.
During my tour we pass displays of coins and medals won by Labatt through the years at various beer expositions. Framed posters of old beer ads and pictures of company trucks from the 1930's line the hallway walls. The strangest item I encounter though is the prominently displayed framed front page of a newspaper. The headline? A Labatt family member is kidnapped and held for ransom.
During the tour we run into CEO George Taylor, who invites me to check out his third floor corner office. Taylor sits behind a double-sided desk used by the founder of the company more than 100 years ago. Another antique in Taylor's office is a silver cash register. The large register was used by the company a 100 years ago.
Glass display cases filled with various brands of Labatt beers line the walls in the boardroom. Corporate offices here also come equipped with their own bar. Revenues in 1993 were CN$2.1 billion, loss CN$70 million.
Hees International Bancorp
Hees International Bancorp is undoubtedly one of the most complex companies I've visited. The local newspapers have difficulty following this company.
Meeting with Lionel Conacher, Managing Partner and Treasurer, on the 45th floor of BCE Place--he even admits it's a complicated web to follow. Hees, a merchant bank with 1993 revenues of CN$358 million, net income CN$67 million, controls three large private holding companies (Brascan Holdings, Carena Holdings and Trilon Holdings) which in turn control all sorts of large corporations. Who in turn controls Hees? The superwealthy Bronfman brothers (Peter & Edward) of Toronto.
A sampling of the operating facilities controlled by Hees: 46 office buildings and retail centers containing 12.5 million square feet of rentable areas, 12,00 acres of developable land, 25 mines and 11 metallurgical and milling plants which mine, smelt and refine zinc, copper, nickel, gold, silver potash and coal. 12 hydro-electric generating stations, over 12 million acres of managed forest lands, 12 aluminum smelting and fabrication plants, 3.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 323 million barrels of oil and natural gas liquids, 5,800 real estate representatives and CN$100 billion of life insurance in force to 1.2 million Canadians thanks to its 55% ownership of London Insurance Group.
With Conacher walking me around the floor we pass the two Bronfman brothers in their offices or should I say cubicles. That's right, these guys are in the billionaire category and own the building. Yet, each occupies a small cubicle with the most prominent item in each being a large cork bulletin board completely covered with family pictures.
Odds and Ends on Companies
With revenues in 1993 of CN$1.8 billion, net earnings CN$1 million, Dylex Ltd, is one of Canada's largest specialty retailers operating 877 stores across the country under names such as Harry Rosen, Tip Top Tailors, BiWay, Club Monaco and Thrifty's. Corporate offices are near the Toronto waterfront in a company-owned, six-story art deco structure built in 1928. Founded in 1967, the name Dylex stands for; Damn Your Lousy Excuses.
Southam Inc. (1993 revenues CN$1.2 billion, net income CN$22 million) is Canada's largest daily newspaper group in terms of circulation. Average daily circulation: 1.5 million. I get a nice reception from Sue Ann Wickwire, Vice President-Corporate Affairs. Unfortunately, their functional, no-frills, company-owned three-story headquarters in suburban Toronto is very dull. Okay, I take that back; There's a room displaying the 17 daily newspapers and 37 business publications and tabloids the company publishes plus, CEO William Ardell has a television/VCR in his middle office.
Thomson Corporation, one of the world's largest media companies, is suppose to be headquartered on the 27th floor of the Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower. Showing up I find six people in a small office. Where is everyone? I'm told Michael Brown, President, and the rest of the executives work out of offices in Stamford, CT. Horsham Corporation, a management company with revenues in 1993 of US$2.3 billion, net income US$40 million, owns 100% of Clark Refining & Marketing and 20% of American Barrick-a gold mining company. Headquarters is a three-story, elegantly furnished townhouse in the middle of Yorkville, the ritzy boutique shopping district of Toronto. The 20 employees use a very winding spiral staircase to go between floors because there isn't an elevator. The boardroom table is glass and seats eight.
When visiting Bank of Montreal in Montreal I was told their boardroom was in the Toronto office so, I check it out. It's on the 68th floor of the 72-story 1 Canadian Place building. The U-shaped table is huge. Seats 51. Four bronze sculptures of western scenes (two by Hermilo Ramirez, and one each by Humberto Peraza and Marco Andres Peraza) along with five oil paintings of Indian chiefs by Nicholas Grand Maison fill the room.
Onex Corporation occupies the 49th floor of the tallest of the two towers comprising BCE Place. I get a snappy "we aren't interested" response from Susan Wellington, Assistant to CEO Gerald Schwartz relayed to me via the receptionist.
Co-operators Group Ltd.
Sixty five miles southwest of Toronto finds me in friendly Guelph, population 70,000, who's tallest structure is a church situated on a hill in downtown. Headquarters for Co-operators Ltd. would have bragging rights to having the next tallest structure with its eight-story headquarters.
The Co-operators is a group of Canadian companies (mostly co-operatives and credit unions) focusing on insurance and financial services. Revenues in 1993 were CN$1.3 billion, net income CN$50 million.
Pat Arbuckle, Editor for the company newsletter, answers questions and walks me around the plainly-furnished two-building complex that is home to 500 employees.
I meet CEO Terry Squire, who's been with the company only a few months in his seventh floor corner office. Squire chuckles when he sees me touching his fake tree. Why? Squire is a regular coffee drinker and confesses a month passed before he realized he was pouring leftover coffee into a fake tree.
The Mutual Group
Why the heck is The Mutual Group, a life insurance company with assets of over CN$16 billion in Waterloo, population 70,000 and about seventy-five miles southwest of Toronto? History. Founded in 1868 as The Ontario Mutual Life Assurance Company, it was incorporated as the first mutual life insurance company in Canada. Revenues were over CN$3.6 billion and net income CN$125 million in 1993.
It's not hard to find the corporate offices because the 18-story tower sticks out like a sore thumb. Wrapped around the tower (built in 1986) are several much older structures. The age of the buildings are as follows: 1912, 1927, 1953 and 1967.
Jim McInnis, Public Affairs Officer, says over 2,200 employees work in the place with "open parking" being the concept here. This means CEO Jack Masterman scrambles with the rest of the troops for a spot.
Conference rooms here are named after trees such as the birch, catalpa and maple rooms. CEO Masterman has a fake fireplace in his second floor office but a real portable computer. The wood-paneled boardroom contains a real fireplace.