Live & Learn: Seymour Schulich

The entrepreneur, mentor and philanthropist on his first investment and favourite painter.

I live the axiom that 100 years from now, it won't matter how much money you had, how big a house you lived in or what kind of car you drove. But if you are important in the life of a young person, you might make a difference. So I make time for young people and try to act as a mentor. If you don't have a mentor, your odds of success diminish greatly.

I was blessed with a father who was a great mentor. When I was studying for my MBA, I asked him, “How do you manage your business without an MBA?” He told me: “Watch the cash. If it's going up, things are usually OK, and if it's going down, there is a problem.” After being in business for 50 years, there is nothing more astute.

There are lots of advantages to being rich, but if you are rich no one has any sympathy for your problems. That can make you lonely. Your ability to connect with people is much broader as you are coming up the ladder. Don't expect gratitude in this life. It's nice if you get it, but don't expect it.

My first job was working at Shell, doing profitability analysis. It was a very good job, no money, but a lot of fun. I realized I didn't know enough about business, so I went back to McGill for my MBA. I got a $1,600 scholarship that I parlayed through investments into $5,000 and went around Europe. That scholarship made a difference in my life. That's why I give money to the schools. I am trying to get to 1,000 scholarships a year, and we are at about 650 now. In the last 10 years alone, I have given away about $190 million. I have another $18 million in the pipeline for next year, which will take me up to $208 million.

I'll tell you why I like the paintings of Cornelius Krieghoff so much. When I was a poor kid from across the tracks, I screwed up all my courage and asked a girl out on a date. Her father was a big auto dealer, and when I went to pick her up, he had a small Krieghoff on his wall. As a poor kid, that was the epitome of success. Now I own 13 Krieghoffs. I outbid Ken Thomson for one at an auction. The next day, he sent his curator with a chequebook and told me to name my price. I told him, “You don't have enough money.” Knowing that I have a toy that Thomson wanted is worth any amount of money.

The lack of charitable giving is a problem in the country, and I don't really understand why. I would love to see a list every year of how much we rich guys gave over the last five years. If we celebrated our givers more, you would draw more out of them–either that or make giving to charity more competitive.

I was raised by lower-middle-class people that were scarred by the Depression. I still go around the house and turn off the lights. My father used to say, “We aren't in partnership with the power company.”

If you are a Canadian entrepreneur, don't go to the U.S. to raise capital. There is plenty of money to be raised in Canada, Europe and Asia. Canada is a walk in the park compared to the U.S., with all the regulatory red tape and legal hassles you can have.

Building Franco Nevada was my favourite job. Building a company up over 19 years was great fun. It was a complete kibitz at first. We were a couple of part-timers running it with a full-time CFO. It would either go public or go broke. But we managed to build it up and eventually sold it for $3 billion. We were working in the investment business and going to Nevada to ski and play poker. My partner, Pierre Lassonde, and I were saying how great it would be to have a company down there so we could write off our trips. I was willing to play Celine Dion's husband poker for $10 million to name a building. If he won, I would put his name on the Schulich School of Music, and if I won he would put up the money. We tried to set it up, but it never happened.

I laugh when people call me a mining magnate. Probably 80% of my money has been made in oil. I'm not a mining guy. I'm an oil guy.

Seymour Schulich


Born Jan. 6, 1940, in Montreal

Entrepreneur, mentor, and philanthropist


In his first successful investment, Schulich parlays a $1,600 scholarship to McGill's MBA program into $5,000.


Joins pension managers Beutel, Goodman & Co. Eventually named partner and vice- chairman emeritus.


Creates Franco-Nevada with Pierre Lassonde. The company pioneers the use of investing in gold royalties.


Donates $15 million to create the Schulich School of Business at Toronto's York University, the first of many major gifts.


In a $3-billion deal, Franco-Nevada merges with Newmont Mining to create the world's largest gold producer.