“Pull the other one.” That’s a response you may feel inclined to give when your friend says they’ve never watched Star Wars or when you’re told that Molson Canadian, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Tim Hortons are all owned by foreign corporations. Indeed, although these prominent businesses were first established in Canada, they - and many other Canadian businesses - have been sold to companies overseas.
Now although this news may shock a lot of people, it’s important to note that the selling of Canadian companies isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as occasionally the transactions can benefit the economy. However, that’s not to say all transactions transpire without criticisms. For instance, in the case of Ontario’s Highway 407, thousands of Canadians felt their government neglected valid concerns and sold something for far less than its actual worth.
Nevertheless, as is usually the case with large financial transactions, there will be people who are in favour and people who are opposed. The purpose of this article isn’t to praise or censure any of the listed business deals, but to rather provide insight into particular Canadian companies that have been sold to foreign corporations.
Founded in 1910 in Hamilton, Ontario, Stelco went on to become one of Canada’s most successful independent steel producers. Yet despite its tremendous success, Stelco suffered financial difficulties in 2004 and had to go under court-ordered protection from its creditors. In 2007 Stelco filed for bankruptcy and was bought for $1.9 billion by US Steel, an American integrated steel producer with major production operations in the United States and Central Europe.
Dofasco was Canada’s largest steel maker, and still to this day sells products to a wide variety of customers, including those in the automotive, construction, energy, manufacturing, pipe and tube, appliance, container, and steel distribution industries. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, Dofasco owned and operated a number of subsidiaries. However, in 1991 Dofasco encountered union and financial difficulties forcing the company to divest. Unable to fully recover, Dofasco was sold in 2006 for $5.6 billion to ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest multinational steel manufacturing corporation based in Luxembourg.
MacMillan Bloedel Limited was a Canadian forestry giant headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Formed through an amalgamation of three smaller forestry companies in 1951 and 1959, MacMillan went on to expand across North America and Europe. It's estimated that at the companies peak, MacMillan's worldwide assets were more than $4 billion. In 1999 it was sold for $2.45 billion to Weyerhaeuser, one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands which is based in the United States.
CP Ships was a large Canadian shipping company established in the late 19th century. The shipping company made it possible for millions of immigrants to travel from Europe to Canada and also played a crucial role in both World Wars by supplying merchant naval vessels. Until after 1945, CP Ships was the largest operator of Atlantic and Pacific steamships. In 2005, CP Ships was purchased by TUI AG, multinational travel and tourism company headquartered in Germany.
Alcan was a Canadian mining company and aluminum manufacturer founded in 1902. Throughout the 20th century Alcan was tremendously successful: During World War 1 they saw their aluminum production double up to 130,00 tonnes and in 1951 it initiated a $500-million project in Kitimat, British Columbia - which at the time was the largest public-private partnership ever introduced in Canada. After acquiring the Pechiney Group in 2004, Alcan made history by becoming the world's largest aluminum manufacturer. However, Alcan was sold for $38 billion to the British-Australian multinational giant Rio Tinto, becoming Rio Tinto Alcan inc. in 2008.
The Seagram Company was a large corporation headquartered in Quebec that at one point became the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world. The company also controlled a variety of entertainment businesses. However, in 2000, Seagram’s entertainment division was sold to Vivendi, a French multinational mass media company, and its beverage division was sold to Diageo, a British multinational alcoholic beverages company that is currently the world's largest producer of spirits.
Established in 1670, the Hudson’s Bay Company exists today as the oldest company in North America. In 2006, South Carolina businessman Jerry Zucker bought HBC for $1.1 billion. However, following Zucker’s death a couple years later, HBC was sold to NRDC Equity Partners, an American entrepreneurial-based private investment firm which invests in retail, real estate and consumer branded businesses.
Founded by John Kinder Labatt in Ontario in 1847, Labatt Blue established itself to be the largest brewer in Canada. However, in 1995 it was sold to the Belgian brewer, Interbrew. 9 years later, Interbrew went on to merge with Brazilian brewer AmBev to form InBev, which at the time became the largest brewer in the world by volume.
Ontario’s Highway 407 Electronic Toll Route (ETR) was the first electronically operated toll highway opened in the world. In May 1999, Ontario sold the highway to Macquarie and Cintra, Austrian and Spanish corporations, in what would go down as one the largest privatizations in Canadian history. Many Canadians opposed the transaction, with critics arguing the privatization would result in increased toll costs, plate denial, and false charges. However, what’s most shocking about the transaction is the fact it was sold for $3 billion at a time when it was estimated to be worth more than ten times that.
Formed in Montreal in 1786, the Molson Brewery exists today as the second oldest company in Canada after the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Molson Brewery has and continues to produce a variety of beer labels, including Molson Canadian, Old Style Pilsner, Rickard’s, and Granville Island Brewing. However, in 2005 Molson merged with Coors, a brewing company which - at the time - was rated the third largest producer of beer in the United States and the second largest brewer in the United Kingdom. Molson and Coors merged to become the Molson Coors Brewing Company, which is currently headquartered in Denver, Colorado and is considered the world's seventh largest brewer by volume.
Did you know that Sleeman beers contain no sugars, no fat, cholesterol or triglycerides? It’s true, and those factors combined with the beer’s overall taste help make it one of the most popular alcoholic beverages in North America. Sleeman was founded by John H. Sleeman in 1834 in Ontario, Sleeman went on to become the third largest brewery in Canada. However, In 2006 the brewery was purchased by Japanese brewer Sapporo.
Along with maple syrup and hockey, many consider Tim Hortons to be a symbolic part of Canadian culture. And this is for good reason, as today Tim Hortons serves as Canada’s largest quick service restaurant chain. In fact, there was a time when Tim Hortons opened twice as many Canadian outlets as McDonald’s. However, to the dismay of many Canadians, in 2014 Tim Hortons was sold to Burger King for $11 billion.