Canada's Warren Buffett: A Profile of Jim Pattison

“There are still lots of opportunities with all the changes going on in the world,” according to Canadian billionaire Jim Pattison, recently profiled by Bloomberg.

Canada’s third richest man with a net worth of $6.3 billion, the ninety-year-old Pattison started his career by purchasing a Pontiac dealership in 1961 for C$40,000. He has since built a conglomerate of businesses that operates across 85 countries and includes supermarkets, fisheries, lumber, packaging, and even owns the Ripley Entertainment Inc. empire and the Guinness World Records.

“For a company with 45,000 employees,” the article reports, “it’s still run a bit like a startup.” For example, it says, the corporate headquarters in Vancouver still doesn’t have a human resources department, and the top hiring decisions continue to be handled by Pattison and his executive assistant of more than five decades, Maureen Chant. Chant reportedly “advises the group’s nearly 30 business divisions and has influenced who runs them.”

Historically, the article explains, Pattison has kept existing management in place after takeovers, and he gives his deputies “a long leash.” According to his son, “He trusts people to do their job.” Typically working seven days a week, Pattison focuses on helping his businesses “navigate technological disruption.” He will often tell employees, “My responsibility is to help you be the most competitive in this area,” inviting them to write down his phone number in case they “hit a wall.”