The Codfathers: Lessons from the Atlantic Business Elite


328 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 1-55263-718-2
DDC 658.1'084'6





Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



Gordon Pitts’s experience and success as a business writer show in the
confidence, insights, and force he demonstrates from word one in this
report on the “Maritime Mafia.”

The work looks at the broad picture of the business environment in the
Maritimes and turns a close-up lens on a handful of individual
super-entrepreneurs. These “titans” include the Irvings (oil and
forestry), the Sobeys (supermarkets), the McCains (frozen food), Frank
McKenna (former New Brunswick premier), the Ganongs (candy), the Olands
(beer), the Braggs (blueberries), and the Risleys (seafood). Most run
family businesses. A few lived rags-to-riches stories; more are third-,
fourth-, or even fifth-generation Maritime success stories. Pitts
describes these businesspeople as a quiet force in the Canadian economy:
their business arena is not confined to the Maritimes, as most have
broad national and international initiatives.

Throughout the book, Pitts keeps interest high and the pace moving
right along by switching focus back and forth from colourful character
studies to examples of East Coast values. He helps the reader see that
the Maritimes is “a state of mind” that influences how business is
conducted. It’s all about loyalty and hard work, directness,
“disdain for pomp, process and hierarchy.” Networking, shared
backgrounds, and shared values have resulted in a “large, quiet,
influential club of … Maritimers who make things happen all over

Pitts has a nice appreciation for dry humour. He doesn’t let
admiration for his subjects’ accomplishments lead to PR writing.
Because he doesn’t shy away from reporting on warts, weaknesses, and
family feuds, the book is a stylistic success and a great read.


Pitts, Gordon., “The Codfathers: Lessons from the Atlantic Business Elite,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 19, 2024,