Richest People

The 20 Biggest Family-run Businesses in Canada

Of the world’s 500 biggest family-owned or -controlled firms, 20 are Canadian. Here’s how they stack up

UPDATED for 2018!: Canada’s Richest People — The Top 25
The Weston family at the Loblaw AGM in 2007

The Weston family at the Loblaw AGM in 2007. From left, Galen G. Weston, Hillary Weston, and Galen Weston Sr. (Peter Power/Globe and Mail/CP)

A new global ranking of family businesses features 20 Canadian firms.

The Global Family Business Index, published by the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland and EY, ranks the world’s 500 largest family-controlled firms by revenue. The list includes both privately held companies and publicly traded ones, but to be included in the ranking the family must control at least 50% of the voting rights for a private firm, or 32% of the voting rights for a public one. (The 32% figure is because only about 60% of corporate voting rights are ever exercised.)

As you can see from the table, many of the 20 Canadian family businesses on the index are controlled by members of the Canadian Business Rich 100 ranking.

CompanyFamilyCanadian Business Rich 100
Net Worth
137George Weston Ltd.Weston family$11.3 billion (MORE)
243Power Corp. of CanadaDemarais family$5.5 billion (MORE)
354Husky EnergyLi family$32.2 billion (between Li Ka-Shing & Richard Li)
466Empire Co. Ltd.Sobey family$2.9 billion (MORE)
574Bombardier Inc.Bombardier family$2.4 billion (MORE)
6114Thomson ReutersThomson family$30.7 billion (MORE)
7118Rogers Communications Inc.Rogers family$7.4 billion (MORE)
8125Canadian Tire Corp.Billes family
9169Saputo Inc.Saputo family$6.2 billion (MORE)
10207Jim Pattison Group Inc.Pattison family$7.8 billion (MORE)
11259McCain Foods Group Inc.McCain family$7.4 billion (Split between two branches)
12269Kruger Inc.Kruger family$1.7 billion (MORE)
13272Shaw Communications Inc.Shaw family$2.0 billion (MORE)
14308James Richardson & Sons Ltd.Richardson family$5.0 billion (MORE)
15309ATCO Ltd.Southern family$2.1 billion (MORE)
16322Quebecor Inc.Péladeau family$1.0 billion (MORE)
17353Cascades Inc.Lemaire family
18371Samuel, Son & Co Ltd.Samuel family$1.5 billion (MORE)
19475The Jean Coutu Group Inc.Coutu family$3.2 billion (MORE)
20491Ellisdon Holdings Inc.Smith family

(Note that the original index classifies Thomson Reuters as a U.S. company. But since it is 55% controlled by Canada’s richest family, the Thomsons, through their Canadian holding company, Woodbridge, I’ve included the company here.)

Mixing business and family can clearly be a highly lucrative combination—but also a combustible one. It takes tremendous discipline to maintain control over a corporate entity over multiple generations. It’s rare for families to successfully navigate even one generational transition in the boardroom—a Canadian Business Insights study from last year found that just 17% of family-run businesses have a firm succession plan in place. And lots of family businesses struggle even to get to the stage where a transition might be possible, since working with your family can be even more stressful and filled with conflict than usual (it harms business innovation too).

MORE FROM PROFITGUIDE: The 4 Cs of Conflict-Free Family Businesses