My favourite thing

Five of canada's richest talk about their prized possessions

The rich 100: 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001

Intro | Earth movers & deal makers | Lords of land & drug czars | The informers & high flyers | The foodies & shop men | Deal kings & the producers | My favourite thing”

Everyone has a treasured object or talisman that's worth more in sentimental value than mere dollars and cents — even the folks on our Rich 100 ranking. We wondered, if you were worth more than $311 million (the minimum for the list), what would your most prized possession be? So, we asked them — 46 of them. Those who responded did so with unexpected candor. Instead of expensive baubles or flashy cars, our well-heeled friends described objects that were of a personal, even intimate nature. (Guess which is our favourite.)

Jimmy Pattison Rich list rank: 6
Prized possession: framed poem by James Russell Lowell
Where I got it: “The first day I went into business, my mother came and said, 'Jimmy, I'd like to give you a present, but we don't have a lot of money to do that, so I'm going to give you this poem.' She had gone to the library, dug it up, copied it with India ink onto a piece of paper and had it framed. Here's the important part of the poem: 'Not failure, But low aim, is crime.'”

Why I love it: “The moral of the poem is, Don't worry about failing but always aim high. And that's what I've tried to do from the day I went into business to today — keep driving and aiming high, and don't worry about failure.”

Bob Gaglardi
Rich list rank: 80
Prized possession: wallet
Where I got it: “When I was 12, my father took a trip to Fairbanks, Alaska, and he purchased a wallet for me made out of the skin of an Alaskan black cod. Today, nearly 50 years later, I still am using the same wallet. It was stolen while I was playing tennis about 15 years ago, and I was completely out of tune each morning when I left the house.

I felt undressed. After about three months, someone pushed it through the letter slot in our front door. I don't know who, and I don't know why, but I was reunited with my wallet, to my great joy.”

Why I love it: “It has a sentimental association with my father and all he meant to me. It's an example to my children (who see it far too often as I take it out to pay for their bills) of the frugal way their dad is clinging to a 50-year-old wallet. It also is something that I can cling to and feel comfortable with in this new world of throwaway items.”

Stephen Jarislowsky
Rich list rank: 27
Prized possession: 18th-century eight-panel Chinese screen
Where I got it: “I stumbled on it in a store in Montreal. It had been auctioned off in 1901 at Parke-Bernet in New York. Most unusual piece, absolutely superb workmanship. It must have taken somebody a year or more to do. When I bought my house, I had to find a house that would accommodate its size.

Why I love it: “It's dated 1776. It's not just a screen dating from that period; it's an extremely fine screen dating from that period. It is dark red Coromandel lacquer, and depicts the story of the Queen of the West meeting her relatives. It is an absolutely unsurpassed piece of work.”

David Azrieli
Rich list rank: 10
Prized possession: 18th-century ark and Sefer Torah
Where I got it: “I obtained it more than 40 years ago, through an antique dealer in New York, who happened to be a relative of mine. Last year when Teddy Kollek, the [former] mayor of Jerusalem, a very dear friend, celebrated his 90th birthday, I gave it as a gift to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.”

Why I love it: “It means a lot to me. It's very rare that an object like this survived in its entirety for more than 200 years. It was built by a German silversmith in Nuremberg, the city where the first laws against Jews — the Nuremberg Laws — came out in the 1930s. It's very rare that it was not broken apart, that the yad [pointer], the shield, the rimonim [finials] and all the other silver trimming were not sold off or disappeared over such a long time. They were all kept intact, including the ark itself, which was made for that particular Sefer Torah.”

Hal Jackman
Rich list rank: 47
Prized possession: “My copy of Canadian Business.”
Where I got it: “At the store.”

Why I love it: “It's a good read.”