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Richest Canadian Entrepreneurs: 5 Self-Made Billionaires

Updated on July 27, 2010

Media giants the Thomson family and Edward Rogers Jr. of Rogers Communications Inc., may top lists for being the richest Canadians, however they aren’t entrepreneurs.

Succeeding in a business passed down generations is no cakewalk and is indeed worthy of the admiration of budding entrepreneurs. Still, there is no better inspiration than the handful of Canadians that have created thriving businesses from the ground up, producing a net worth of 1 billion and up.

Each person listed here is:

  1. A Canadian citizen (usually taking up residence in Canada but not always).
  2. Founder or co-founder of at least one major Canadian company.
  3. A billionaire

Now that you know what it takes to make the list, let’s take a look at the richest entrepreneurs in Canada.

Mike Lazaridis

  • Net worth: 2.2 billion
  • Source: Research in Motion (RIM)
  • Residence: Waterloo

Lazaridis’ brilliant scientific mind allowed him to make mobile devices that allow people to communicate better. Although newcomers Apple and Google are making waves in the Smartphone sector today, it is he and Blackberry co-founder Douglas Fregin practically created the market.

Early on the duo recognized that engineering was their strong suit and business was their weakness. Jim Balsillie joined the company in 1992 to share the position of CEO along with Lazaridis.

Blackberry has since been successful in crossing over to the consumer market from the corporate realm by creating phones like Storm, Pearl and Bold.

The Lesson: Ability to produce innovative products forms the heart of a high-tech company.

David Cheriton

  • Net worth: 1.6 billion
  • Source: Google
  • Residence: Palo Alto, California (Canadian citizen)

When Page and Brin pitched Cheriton’s business partner, Bechtolsheim was impressed enough to write a cheque made out to “Google Inc.” According the legend Google didn’t exist yet so the young partners had to register the corporation to cash it.

David Cheriton invested $200,000 and Bechtolsheim put in an additional $100,000. In exchange they receive Google shares now worth 1 billion each.

As an esteemed professor of computer science, Cheriton knew the boys at Google were onto something big. He was also profitable with other startups but it was Google that went on to become a giant.

The Lesson: When young bucks with star potential come along in the field of your expertise, find a way to become part of their success.

Stephen Jarislowsky

  • Net worth: 1.5 billion
  • Source: asset management
  • Residence: Montreal

After he completed a Masters in Business Administration from Harvard Business School and worked as an engineer for Alcan Aluminum, the doors were open at Jarislowsky, Fraser & Company Limited in 1955.

The Montreal-based company went on to become one of the biggest and most successful investment management firms in the country. Jarislowsky’s prowess as an investor earned him the title of “the Warren Buffet of Canada” as coined by publisher Jean Paré.

Jarislowsky believes that greed leads to bad investments. Firstly, it causes investors to act before completely understanding the business (time is money mentality). Secondly, it makes for unrealistic expectations of growth.

The Lesson: “You should not be motivated by greed, which is still what investors mainly are,” Mr. Jarislowsky says. “Be motivated by preservation of capital and realistic growth.”

Daryl Katz

  • Net worth: 1.4 billion
  • Source: pharmacies
  • Residence: Edmonton

As the son of a pharmacist, Daryl Katz got involved in the industry closest to him. He founded The Katz Group in which he serves as chairman and executive officer. The group runs more than 1,800 stores including Rexall, Pharma Plus, and Medicine Shoppe, making it one of the most prominent pharmacy chains.

Beginning in the 90s, Katz bought up distressed pharmacies with aims of turning business around with the help of drug company McKesson and a board of advisors. The stores are now being rebranded using the Rexall name.

Katz added to his empire in early 2008 by purchasing NHL hockey team, the Edmonton Oilers.

The Lesson: Stick to what you know and expand as aggressively as Genghis Khan. 

Clayton Riddell

  • Net worth: 1.3 billion
  • Source: oil and gas
  • Residence: Calgary

Riddell is the founder of Alberta based Paramount Resources and is the wealthiest Canadian in the gas and oil industry. He has been involved in the sector for over fifty years.

His educational background is in geology not business, once again proving that understating the foundation of how an industry works is paramount. Continual involvement in the cause of geology also proves his commitment. Riddell donated $10 million in order to have the Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources built at the University of Manitoba. In addition, he served as president of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. 

Riddell has drilled where others feared to drill, pioneering ways to obtain shallow natural gas along the way. What may seem to be courage to others is really an in-depth knowledge of the drilling process, the ability to pinpoint opportunity and experience.

The Lesson: If you have the vision, go after opportunities others won’t dare touch or don’t see the value in.

Conclusion

Each entrepreneur listed here is a role model we can learn valuable lessons from. Studying historical business decisions each has made over time gives keen insights into how a Canadian billionaire ticks.

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