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PODCAST: Legendary B.C. businessman Jim Pattison still going strong at age 92

TODAY IN B.C.: Philanthropist discusses his long career, has no plans to retire

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The Jim Pattison Group has grown over the years to now employ more than 51,000 people. It started more than 60 years ago with a three-pump gas station and a two-car showroom. On the latest edition of Today in BC, Jim Pattison explains he worked hard as an entrepreneurial teenager.

“Before high school, I used to sell garden seeds door-to-door in the springtime and so then I got into selling magazine subscriptions for the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies Home Journal,” he said. “Then after that, I got a job working for the Vancouver Province, after school on the late edition.”

With a $40,000 loan from the Royal Bank, Pattison was able to open a new Pontiac dealership, his first in 1961.

As his businesses flourished, Pattison was involved in a wide variety of investments, including two hockey teams in the fledgling World Hockey Association, the Vancouver Blazers and the Calgary Cowboys.

The league began in 1972 and folded in 1979.

“I think it failed because the teams really didn’t have financial sound owners,” said Pattison. “They couldn’t last. The NHL was THE league and this was the junior league. They didn’t get the attendance and of course, to get the players, you had to have a lot of money. Other than the folks in Toronto they had money behind them, but the rest of us didn’t have much money.”

Pattison Group has 30 operating divisions, including the auto, grocery, media and entertainment industries. Pattison says that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost everything.

“The whole distribution system and supply for manufacturing all over the country has some degree of trouble and it is a very big issue,” he said. “We’re gaining ground as far as supply is concerned, but the number one issue today is the supply to factories and then the factories to the retailers. Some industries are better than others, but the whole industry today, that at least the things we’re involved in, the trouble is supply - everything is gaining ground, but overall we still are not back to normal in most businesses.”

When asked about whether he thinks about retiring, the 92-year-old replied: “I have never thought about it. Not once. If you like what you do, why would you quit?”

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Peter McCully

About the Author: Peter McCully

Peter has been a broadcaster and publisher on both of Canada’s coasts and has owned a small newspaper and run an advertising agency along the way.
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