BCE firstname.lastname@example.org_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2006-06-13 published
THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON, Kenneth (1923-2006)
The gentle magnate
Billionaire Canadian visionary and arts patron is dead at 82
By Elizabeth CHURCH, Page A1
Kenneth THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON, the architect of a global media empire, a passionate art collector and animal lover and one of the world's wealthiest men, died yesterday at age 82.
The unassuming billionaire had a keen eye for a deal and he used it to transform his father Roy's far-flung business empire into Thomson Corp., a focused publisher of electronic information, worth about $30-billion. The THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON family also kept a private interest in traditional media through their part ownership in Bell Globemedia, which includes the CTV network and The Globe and Mail.
Outside the business world, Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON made his mark as one of the country's greatest benefactors to the arts world. In 2002, he announced he would hand over his beloved collection of more than 2,000 works to the Art Gallery of Ontario, along with $70-million in cash to fund future operations and toward a massive $200-million renovation and expansion of the gallery by architect Frank Gehry.
Those close to him said yesterday one of the tragedies of his death is that he will not be there to see the opening of the new galleries that he influenced so profoundly through his gift.
"Our dream was to cut the ribbon together and it's not going to happen," Art Gallery of Ontario director Matthew TEITELBAUM said yesterday.
Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON collapsed at his downtown Toronto office yesterday morning from a fatal heart attack, after arriving early, as was his habit. His death occurred just one day before he and his wife, Marilyn, were to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. It also followed a weekend that Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON spent with his three children -- sons David and Peter and daughter, Taylor.
"We will miss his support and companionship terribly, said David THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON, who in 2002 succeeded his father as the chairman of Thomson Corp.
"All of my grandfather's family are deeply grateful to my father for his wise stewardship of our family interests for more than 30 years. More importantly he was a gentle and kind man who impressed everyone with whom he came in contact. He was much loved."
Others remembered a gentle man who always knocked before entering an office and chatted with those who delivered his Globe and Mail in the pre-dawn hours.
He paid special visits to abused pets in the pound. He never assumed his enormous wealth entitled him to wield inordinate power, they said.
"He never felt the need to express himself above the crowd," said Geoffrey BEATTIE, president of Woodbridge Co. Ltd., the THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON family's private company. "I've never met a person ever who could make you feel so good about yourself."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid tribute to Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON and his family for their significant cultural gifts as well as their commitment to "quality journalism and the rights of an informed public."
"Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON was one of Canada's most successful businessmen and combined his financial acumen with his commitment to serve both his country and his community," he said.
Said Ted Rogers, chief executive officer of Rogers Communications Inc.: "Ken THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON was a friend, one of the greatest business men in the world, an art collector of unimaginable proportions. He was a visionary and had the leadership skills to implement substantial change of direction for Thomson Corp."
Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON was born in 1923 in Toronto and lived most of his childhood in Timmins, in Northern Ontario.
He leaves behind a company much different from the one he took over 30 years ago on the death of his father, newspaper magnate Roy, the First Lord Thomson of Fleet. In the mid-1970s the THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON organization was a conglomerate, with a hodge-podge collection of newspapers, North Sea oil and travel agencies.
Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON concentrated the company's holdings in North America and after venturing into retail briefly with an investment in Hudson Bay Co., sharpened its focus to electronic publishing. Thomson Corp. is now a tightly focused electronic information group of global reach, with most of its sales coming from subscription-based electronic products and services in the legal, financial, educational, health-care and science fields.
Through it all, Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON gained a reputation as an astute deal maker who bought at the bottom and had the wits to get out at the top. His most recent deal was the reacquisition late last year by the THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON family of effective control of Bell Globemedia, including The Globe and Mail, and a new partnership with rival Torstar Corp.
John A. TORY, the lawyer and close family adviser for 50 years, said yesterday that Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON was always aware that he was the guardian of the fortune built by his father from a small radio station in Timmins to ownership of papers such as The Times of London. "He was always conscious of the legacy that he had inherited and he felt very deeply that with it came an obligation to build upon the foundation established by his father."
Ivan Fecan, president and chief executive officer of Bell Globemedia and head of CTV, said the way Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON led his life is a lesson for us all. "In business, in philanthropy, in life, Ken THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON led by example," he said. "He was a humble man who loved dogs, a media and business visionary, an art collector with incredible taste and a warm, loving family man."
BCE president and chief executive officer Michael Sabia singled out Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON's remarkable achievements. "In any country, in any field of endeavour, some people stand above the rest. For many years, Ken THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON stood as a giant in the business he loved so much and led so well."
Former prime minister Paul Martin remembered Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON's humble attitude. "Our fathers were good Friends and I consider myself truly fortunate to have known Ken," he said. "For a man who managed an international media empire, laid claim to a noble title and was one of the most successful businessmen in the world, Ken was astonishingly modest. He never sought the spotlight -- instead, everything Ken did, he did because he loved it.
Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON inherited his father's title, First Lord THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON of Fleet, but chose not to sit in the House of Lords.
Indeed, many stories of Mr. THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON's self-effacing attitude and his passion for art and animals emerged yesterday on the news of his death.
"When Ken looked at a work of art, or shared his views about what a work of art meant to him, his eyes sparkled," the Art Gallery of Ontario's Mr. TEITELBAUM remembered. "He caught you in his eye and talked from his heart."
Lynda Elmy, communications director with the Toronto Humane Society, said he was concerned about the welfare of animals. "He took a great interest in animals, especially dogs, and especially abandoned and abused dogs."
With his death, the THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON family must now build on his legacy. Roger MARTIN, a member of the Thomson board of directors and dean of University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, said it is difficult to "take something great" and move it to the next level of growth. "Roy was a great man who built this medium thing, and Ken was a great man who built this big thing. I think David's got this opportunity to build something even more magnificent."
In any country, in any field of endeavour, some people stand above the rest. For many years, Ken THOMPSON/THOMSON/TOMPSON/TOMSON stood as a giant in the business he loved so much and led so well.' Michael Sabia, BCE president and chief executive officer
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