Despite what you may have heard from either side, Canada is not America’s hat, and America is not Canada’s pants. While the two nations have a very lighthearted rivalry at times – mostly when it comes to hockey – truthfully no other two nations are as close politically, culturally, and economically. There is one obvious difference though; America is way bigger. With over 10x the population, the USA has long been the engine of economic growth on the North American continent. Naturally for a long time much of the wealth was concentrated in the USA, but this has begun to change in recent years as the average Canadian net worth has caught up to and surpassed their neighbours to the south.
Averages and the status of the middle-class aside, once you start looking at the realm of the ultra-wealthy that shrinking disparity begins to inflate again. The richest Americans are still far wealthier than the richest Canadians – and we’re not talking about lawyers, doctors, and other relatively wealthy and successful professionals. Forget about the 1%; this is about the 0.001%, and Canadians still have some catching up to do.
That being said, one look at the list of the richest Canadians shows that there’s definitely been some progress made. In 2013, the wealth of the 86 richest families in Canada were equal to the combined wealth of the poorest 11.4 million Canadians. It’s the consequence of a trend that is seeing new wealth creation concentrated at the very top of the socioeconomic ladder. Between 1999 and 2013, the 86 richest Canadian families increased their share of the total wealth from $118 billion to $178 billion after being adjusted for inflation. That’s a 33% increase in a little under a decade and a half. The rich are only getting richer, and these 10 dynasties are the richest of the rich.
#10 Carlo Fidani – $4.08 Billion Net Worth
In today’s market, is there any single industry more lucrative than real estate? Carlo Fidani doesn’t think so. He’s the owner and CEO of the Orlando Corporation, a real estate company that owns 40 million square feet of commercial real estate in Toronto’s GTA area, some of the most expensive real estate in the country. The company was founded in 1948 by Fidani’s father and grandfather, initially as a construction company. Over the years the family business diversified into maintenance and management of commercial real estate, and as Toronto’s real estate market has grown so have the profits of the Fidani family. Over the past year his net worth has grown 13% – which is an amazing return on any portfolio, but more so when you realize how big the starting point was to begin with.
#9 Richardson Family – $4.45 Billion Net Worth
Is it cheating if an entire family is included in a list of the richest people? Perhaps, but when you consider that the entire family works in the business and shares the massive amount of wealth, it seems like a fair entry. Like most of the richest families, the Richardsons made their fortune generations ago. In the mid 19th century, the Richardson family established themselves as a key component of the grain industry in western Canada. Over the years the family diversified into many different industries. The Richardsons have a presence in the financial industry, in property management, and in oil and gas exploration. They’re one of western Canada’s most important families, and their wealth is only rising year over year – a 31% increase from last year alone.
#8 Jeffrey S. Skoll – $4.92 Billion Net Worth
Jeffrey Skoll is a Canadian who became wildly wealthy during the initial DotCom boom of the late 90s and early 2000s. Skoll was an electrical engineer from a modest family who unknowingly set himself up for billionaire status after he joined eBay in 1996 as their first employee. Skoll was hired to be eBay’s first president, as he had a management plan for the company that impressed the founders. In 1998, after eBay experienced massive and unprecedented growth, Skoll was replaced as president and cashed out on his stock options to the tune of $2 billion. Since then he’s launched Participant Media, his own movie production company that has funded films such as The Fifth Estate, a film about wikileaks, and has plans to launch a television network named Pivot Media that would focus on producing socially conscious and politically aware content for the millennial generation.
#7 Estate of Paul Desmarais – $4.93 Billion Net Worth
Paul Desmarais was one of Canada’s longtime richest citizens, but unfortunately passed away in late 2013. At the time of his death, the value of his estate was estimated to be around $4.93 billion, making him one of the richest men in Canada and the world. Desmarais made his fortune through the Power Corporation of Canada, a diversified holding company with assets in energy, insurance, media, and financial services. Throughout his life Demarais was known for his substantial influence in federal and international politics. Former prime ministers Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were on the board of the Power Corporation of Canada before their tenure as head of state, and Desmarais had close ties to Nicolas Sarkozy, who was at one point the President of France. Critics alleged that Desmarais leveraged those political connections for advantages in business, but at the time of his death he was remembered fondly by much of the Canadian public and media.
#6 Saputo Family – $5.24 Billion Net Worth
The Saputos have made more money in the dairy industry than one would even consider possible. With a net worth of $5.24 billion – including assets such as the MLS soccer team the Montreal Impact – the Saputos are an institution in their native Montreal, and indeed in all of Canada. Over the past year, their net worth has increased by 24%, partially thanks to their share price being bolstered through their acquisition of Australia’s Warrnambool Cheese, another cheese manufacturer. Saputo’s acquisition make them one of the biggest names in dairy worldwide, and ensures that the fortunes of the Italian-Canadian family will only improve as time goes on.
#5 Jim Pattison – $7.39 Billion Net Worth
Pattison already holds the distinction of being BC’s richest man, but he’s also one of the richest men in Canada. His company, the Jim Pattinson Group, have various holdings in media, broadcasting, billboards, and the grocery industry, among others. His company has investments in Canada and all across the world, and it all sprung from Pattison’s uncanny ability to sell cars. He made his name becoming the biggest car salesman in western Canada before branching out into other industries, and the rest is history. His $7.39 billion net worth is helping him expand into eastern Canada, where he’s recently opened up car dealerships and a 135,000 aquarium in Toronto operated by his subsidiary Ripley’s Entertainment.
#4 Rogers Family – $7.6 Billion Net Worth
Love them or hate them, Rogers is a veritable family dynasty in Canada. The telecommunications provider is – along with Bell and Telus – one of the ‘big 3’ telecom companies in Canada, and consequently brings in insane profits each year.The company was headed by Ted Rogers for many decades, but his passing in 2008 left a leadership hole that his children were not yet ready to fulfill. Although the current CEO of the company – Guy Laurence – is not a member of the Rogers family, it’s widely believed he’s just keeping seat warm for the next generation of Rogers family members to gain more experience within the company and make their claim for the seat of CEO. The family’s $7.6 billion net worth is sure to be a decent consolation prize for not being in the driver’s seat of the family company.
#3 Irving Family – $7.85 Billion Net Worth
The Irvings made their fortune when family patriarch K.C. Irving established Irving Oil in 1924. Based out of the maritimes, Irving Oil was one of the first big energy businesses in Canada. The company remains privately owned by members of the Irving family, and is led by one of K.C.’s sons Arthur. Irving Oil is presently focused on turning New Brunswick into an energy hub for Albertan oil to make its way into the northeastern American market, but the Irving family has other investments in steel, broadcasting, media and transportation. The $7.85 billion family fortune makes the Irving family one of the richest in Canada, and the richest family in the maritime provinces.
#2 Galen Weston – $10.4 Billion Net Worth
Canadians may not be familiar with Galen Weston’s name, but chances are they’ve shopped at one of his establishments. The english-born Canadian is the owner of Loblaws, which he acquired in the early 70s back when they were a failing retail chain of grocery stores. He grew the company into the biggest grocery retail business in the country, and grew his own net worth up to an astonishing $10.4 billion. His portfolio of investments went up 24% last year alone, based mostly off the increase in share price brought upon by Loblaws $12 billion buy-out of pharmacy chain Shopper’s Drug Mart. Galen’s fortune in Canada is second only to one other family.
#1 The Thomson Family – $26.1 Billion Net Worth
The Thomson family are the wealthiest family in Canada. In fact, the Thomson family is the wealthiest family in Canada by an absolutely massive margin. They have more than the #2, #3, and #4 entires on our list combined. Their main source of wealth is from their eponymous Thomas Reuters, a multinational media empire that’s anchored in New York City, but owned by the Thomson family through their holding company The Woodbridge Company. After a rough few years brought on by the 2008 recession, the Thomson family seem back on track to remain Canada’s wealthiest family for the foreseeable future. Share prices for Thomas Reuters are up 33% over the past year, which has raised the family’s net worth accordingly. Out of all the rich Canadian billionaires, one family stands head and shoulders above the rest.