Jim Pattison

Episode Summary

Our very special guest Mr Jim Pattison joins PureTalk to discuss his humble upbringing, his journey into the world of business and the most influential public figures he’s met along the way.

Guest Bio

James Allen Pattison, OC, OBC, entrepreneur, business executive (born 1 October 1928 in Saskatoon, SK). Pattison is best known as the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of The Jim Pattison Group, Canada’s second largest private company, with $9.6 billion in revenues in 2016. The Jim Pattison Group has divisions in broadcast media, signage, supermarkets, fishing, forestry, agriculture, equipment, manufacturing, recreation, marketing and entertainment. With an estimated net worth of $5.6 billion (2016), Pattison is one of the richest individuals in Canada. He is also a philanthropist, having donated a landmark $75 million in 2017 to establish the Jim Pattison Medical Centre in Vancouver, for example. 

Early Life and Education

Pattison was born in Saskatchewan in 1928, the year before the Great Depression. With Canada’s unemployment rate eclipsing 32 per cent, Pattison’s parents moved to Vancouver’s east side in 1931. Growing up in the attic of a cramped rooming house, he learned from an early age to look for ways to get ahead.

Pattison had his first job by the age nine, selling subscriptions to Ladies’ Home Journal door-to-door. By age 13, he had become a skilled trumpet player, and as a summer job he toured rural Saskatchewan, headlining gospel revival meetings as “The Boy Wonder from Vancouver” (see Gospel Music). During that same year, Pattison met his future wife, Mary Hudson, also 13, at a country bible camp. The childhood sweethearts have been married for over 70 years.

While attending John Oliver High School in Vancouver, Pattison continued his entrepreneurial efforts. He worked multiple jobs, including hotel pageboy, paper delivery boy, fruit picker, general laborer and canner. After graduating, Pattison enrolled at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he studied commerce. During his studies, he began to buy used cars, which he would re-sell on the UBC campus at a profit.

Car Leasing

Pattison left UBC before graduating to work at the Bowell McLean car dealership. In 1961, at the age of 33, Pattison left the dealership to purchase a GM dealership that sold Pontiac and Buick brand vehicles. With the help of a loan from a local Royal Bank, which was eight times higher than the lending limit for that branch, Pattison would help pioneer the car leasing business in Canada. In the car leasing arrangement, Pattison allowed car buyers at his dealership to pay for their vehicles in installments, instead of paying the full cost of the car at the time of purchase. Despite the large loan, in the first year of his new dealership Pattison made $29,000. By the time he was 40, leasing cars to Canadians had helped him make over $1 million.

The Jim Pattison Group

In 1967, Pattison began to expand his business ventures by buying 20 per cent of the shares of Neon Products, a leader in outdoor advertising. With a 20 per cent ownership stake, Pattison executed a hostile takeover of the company. The company went on to own and operate airlines, hockey franchises, department stores and consumer products such as Orange Crush soda.

Many of the businesses owned by The Jim Pattison Group have a dominant share of their market. For example, The Jim Pattison Group’s out-of-home advertising business produced 42 per cent of the billboards, bus boards and mall posters in Canada in 2004, The Jim Pattison Group magazine and book distribution division had a 50 per cent claim on the Canadian market, and Pattison’s original business of car leasing grew to include ownership and management of over 10,000 vehicles across Canada.

Having made over 200 acquisitions since Pattison opened his GM dealership in 1961, The Jim Pattison Group is the second largest private company in Canada. The company operates businesses across Canada and employs over 42,000 people. With 24 divisions, including ownership of Just Energy and Canfor, The Jim Pattison Group generated $9.6 billion in revenues in 2016. The success of The Jim Pattison Group has helped make Jim Pattison the 10th richest person in Canada in 2017, with an estimated net worth of $5.6 billion.

Marc Richard