The Governors of the Hudson’s Bay Company, part 4: 1970 to the present

George Taylor Richardson CM (1925-2014), 1970-82. George Richardson was born and raised in Winnipeg and attended the University of Manitoba. He was the scion of the Richardson family that founded and ran James Richardson & Sons Ltd., a powerful firm of grain merchants; his father, James Richardson Sr., was an early investor in air transport and the namesake of James Armstrong Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg, and his brother, James Richardson Jr., served as Minister of National Defence under Pierre Trudeau. In 1946 George was placed in charge of the Richardson grain terminals in Thunder Bay and worked his way up to company president in 1966. He expanded the Richardson interests into grain milling, securities brokerage and real estate development, building Lombard Place at the corner of Portage and Main streets in Winnipeg. When the HBC moved its headquarters from London to Winnipeg in 1970, it appointed Richardson as Governor. Richardson’s major impact on the company was to move it from being primarily based in western Canada and growing its holdings in eastern Canada, buying two major regional department store chains (Freiman’s in Ottawa and Morgan’s in Montreal) in 1972 and moving HBC HQ from Winnipeg to Toronto in 1974. During his governorship, HBC bought out the Zeller’s department store chain and its western Canada discount retail subsidiary, Field’s, for $76 million in 1978, then later that year bought Simpson’s, the largest department store chain in eastern Canada, and its share in the catalogue-based retail outlet Simpsons-Sears for $388 million. In 1979 Kenneth Thomson, 2nd Baron Thomson of Fleet, the richest man in Canada, bought 75 per cent of HBC’s shares for $641 million. In 1981, Dome Petroleum took over HBC Oil & Gas. After he left HBC in 1982, Richardson continued on in his family’s company, retiring in 2000 and dying in 2014.

Donald Scott McGiverin (1924-98), 1982-94. Born in Winnipeg, Don McGiverin started working for the T. Eaton Company in Toronto in 1945. He became head of Eaton’s Winnipeg office in 1966, then left to join the HBC in 1969 to help transition its head office to Winnipeg. Under McGiverin, the Bay suffered 10 years of losses, until it was finally turned around by Lord Thomson and his right-hand man John Tory Sr. in 1989. HBC sold off its share of Simpsons-Sears to Sears Canada in 1983, then it sold its Northern Stores division in 1987, thereby ending 317 years of trading for furs in Canada, as well as removing itself from the retail market in the remote settlements of the North. The HBC bought out Towers Department Stores in 1990 and Woodward’s in 1993, converting both chains to The Bay or Zeller’s stores. In 1991, HBC closed down all its Simpson’s outlets and converted them to locations of The Bay; that same year, The Bay caved into pushy activists and stopped selling furs in its stores. Between 1985 and 1991, the journalist Peter C. Newman wrote a popular history of the Hudson’s Bay Company in three volumes: Company of Adventurers (1670-1783), Caesars of the Wilderness (1783-1869), and Merchant Princes (1869-1991). The HBC donated its colonial-era records to the Archives of Manitoba in 1994, and funded an independent charitable historical foundation to take over publication of The Beaver (now Canada’s History) magazine. McGiverin retired in 1994 and died at his home in Toronto four years later.

David Edward Mitchell OC (1926-2010), 1994-97. Mitchell was born in Calgary and joined the air force after leaving high school. He later enrolled at the University of Oklahoma and became a petroleum engineer, owning several successful oilfield firms. He was made Governor of the HBC in 1994. Under his watch, the HBC resumed selling furs in its department stores in 1997. Mitchell retired three years later and died in 2010.

The Hon. L. Yves Fortier PC CC QC (1935-now), 1997-2006. Yves Fortier was born in Quebec City. He studied at the Université de Montreal, at McGill and at Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship. He became a lawyer, sitting on the Hague Tribunal from 1984 to 1989 and serving as Canada’s ambassador to the UN from 1989 to 1990, then was chairman of the law firm of Ogilvy Renault from 1992 to 2009. Fortier was Governor of the HBC from 1997 until its hostile takeover in 2006. Under Fortier, HBC bought out Kmart Canada in 1998 and started Home Outfitters, its chain of home décor stores, in 1999. After leaving HBC in 2006, Fortier became chairman of Alcan, then joined the Sanctions Board of the World Bank in 2012. In 2013, Fortier was sworn into the Privy Council and was given a seat on the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

Jerry Zucker (1949-2008), 2006-08. Jerry Zucker was born in Tel Aviv and moved to America at the age of three. He earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Florida and eventually settled in Charleston, South Carolina, where he became an inventor (registering 350 patents) and a businessman, founding an industrial conglomerate named the InterTech Group in 1982, which bought out Montreal-based Dominion Textiles Ltd. (Domtex) in 1997. Zucker started buying shares in HBC in 2003, owning 19% of the company by 2005. By March of 2006 Zucker bought out all remaining HBC stock at $15.25 per share and took the company off the stock market for the first time since it was founded. Zucker pushed through major structural and administrative reforms once he had sole control over the Company. In 2006, The Bay became the official clothing sponsors of the Canadian Olympic team, winning it from Roots Canada. Jerry Zucker died of cancer at the age of 58. A school in Charleston was named for him.

Anita Zucker (1952-now), April-July 2008. Upon his death, Jerry Zucker left the HBC to his widow, Anita, the first woman to be Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. She was born Anita Goldberg in Charleston, SC, and attended the University of Florida. She sold off HBC soon after inheriting it and lives in Charleston. She is one of the 200 richest people in America, according to Forbes.

Richard A. Baker (1965-now), 2008-now. Richard A. Baker was born in Greenwich, Conneticut, the son of Robert C. Baker, a real estate mogul and founder of National Realty Development Corp. (NRDC), the largest shopping mall landlord in America. Baker went to Cornell, then went to work for his father, eventually inheriting NRDC. In 2006 Baker entered the department store game by buying Lord & Taylor, founded in New York City in 1826. NRDC orchestrated a buyout of HBC in July of 2008 for $1.1 billion. Baker returned HBC shares to public trading on the stock exchange in October 2012 with an IPO of $1.6 billion. In 2012, HBC sold off its Field’s stores; the next year, it closed all but three of its Zeller’s locations and sold the building leases to Target Canada, which was a spectacular failure and closed down completely by April 2015. The Hudson’s Bay Company rebranded its flagship department store chain from “The Bay” to “Hudson’s Bay” in 2013, replacing the stylized “B” logo with a version of the HBC coat of arms. HBC has started to expand its retail business globally under Baker, having bought out the American high-end department store chain Saks for $2.9 billion in 2013, then buying Germany’s Galeria Kaufhof chain in 2015 for 2.8 billion euros. Currently, HBC is planning to open Sak’s stores in Canada by spring of 2016.

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