Seven Western alumni have been named to the second annual Canada’s 50 Most Powerful Business People 2014, presented by Canadian Business magazine. According to the magazine, these are the “dealmakers, string-pullers and master manipulators who call the shots in 2014.”
While Western alumni comprised three of the Top 20, and two of the Top 10, the list was topped by John Ruffolo, chief executive officer of OMERS Ventures, the venture capital arm of the Ontario municipal workers’ pension fund. Jason Kenney, Federal Employment Minister; Bill Ackman, Pershing Square Capital CEO; Mark Wiseman, CPP Investment Board president and CEO; and Bruce Flatt, Brookfield Asset Management CEO, rounded out the Top 5.
Western alumni on the list included:
Prem Watsa, MBA’74
CEO, Fairfax Financial Holdings
Watsa is one of the country’s savviest investors. It’s now a cliché to call him Canada’s Warren Buffett, but there’s truth to it. Like Buffett, Watsa has fans who track his investments, discuss his letters to shareholders online, and make the pilgrimage to Fairfax Financial’s annual meeting, where they put on a dinner to talk investing. Watsa is a down-to-earth master of the universe, and he often attends. There is good reason for the devotion to Watsa, as he continues to rack up wins on counterintuitive bets. Through Fairfax, he tripled his money earlier this year after selling part of his stake in the Bank of Ireland. It’s no surprise that when Watsa speaks, the market listens.
Stephen Poloz, MA’79, PhD’82
Governor, Bank of Canada
The power wielded by the Bank of Canada governor must be somewhat strangulating. Poloz has so much influence over markets, investment, and consumer and business expectations that nearly every word he says has to be meticulously thought out. Poloz has strenuously avoided saying much about the Canadian dollar lest he send it careening in one direction or another. He’ll really start to affect the lives of Canadians when he raises interest rates—a move that will finally put a damper on spending habits.
R. Jeffrey Orr, HBA’81
CEO, Power Financial
The late Paul Desmarais Sr. may have built Power Financial, but it’s the company’s CEO, Jeffrey Orr, who’s steering the ship. From atop Power Financial, Orr runs a vast empire of insurance and investment companies, which collectively oversee $188 billion in assets under management and more than a million life insurance customers in Canada and Ireland. Orr’s influence has grown in recent years: He’s now chairman at the majority of Power Financial’s subsidiaries.
Donna Kennedy-Glans, LLB’84
MLA for Calgary-Varsity
Donna Kennedy-Glans didn’t exactly topple Alison Redford’s government with her exit from the Alberta Progressive Conservative Party in March, but her departure was the straw that broke the beleaguered premier’s back. When this newcomer to Alberta politics talks and acts, others take notice. Confident, articulate and extremely well-connected, Kennedy-Glans has experience in industry (she was Nexen Inc.’s first female executive vice-president), philanthropy (she founded Bridges Social Development) and corporate social responsibility (she’s advised global energy operators on the non-technical risks of their projects). She’s rebuffed approaches by the Liberals, the Wildrose Party and the Alberta Party and is expected to be a big behind-the-scenes influencer in the post-Redford government.
Bonnie Brooks, MBA
Vice Chair, Hudson’s Bay Company
You quit shopping at dowdy Hudson’s Bay Company years ago, but now you’re back, snapping up A-list offerings from brands like Top Shop and the just-opened Kleinfeld Bridal boutique. That’s the magic of retailing turnaround artist Bonnie Brooks. In her new role of vice-chair, Hudson’s Bay Company, she’s now focusing on the company’s other holdings, which include Lord & Taylor and Saks. Watch for the magic to spread.
Gerry Protti, MA’75
Chair, Alberta Energy Regulator
Environmentalists decried the appointment of Gerry Protti, a former Encana executive, as chair of the newly amalgamated Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) last year as a case of the fox guarding the henhouse. But under his leadership the AER has taken a more muscular approach to oil and gas oversight, cracking down on things like leaks to well bores and aerial pollutants.
Jordan Banks, BA’90
Global head of vertical strategy, Facebook
The tech world is watching Jordan Banks now that Facebook has tapped him to lead a global team trying to find new ways for the social media giant to serve key industries (and boost revenues). He’s well-connected (having run eBay’s Canadian operation and JumpTV before joining Facebook) and affable. If he gets traction, watch for other social media to rush in and follow.