Pattison: Portrait of a Capitalist Superstar


263 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-919573-54-1





Reviewed by Aluin Gilchrist

Aluin Gilchrist is a Vancouver-based Canadian government civil
litigation lawyer.


Russell Kelly left the CBC in Nova Scotia for journalism in British Columbia. His interest in prevention of violence against women led him to a man who owns companies which, among other things, distribute pornographic magazines in Canada. Kelly says that Jimmy Pattison is the only Canadian whose gross income is over $1 billion a year, and estimates Pattison’s personal wealth at over $600 million.

In the hungry 1930s, Jimmy’s father was said to be “a man who ‘worked hard and played hard,’ a euphemism for a workaholic who drinks too much on weekends.” Before his father became sales manager at a Packard dealership, Jimmy often accompanied him, driving about British Columbia looking for odd jobs. Jimmy tithed: 5¢ from a 50¢-weekly allowance. Although he is not on the membership roll of the Pentecostal church which he attends, Jimmy and his companies still tithe.

At 13, he was selling carrot and pea seeds door to door. At 19, Jimmy sold used cars, and studied commerce at the University of British Columbia. At 21, he tried and failed to get a job at Neon Products Ltd., selling leases of signs. At 39, he had done so well selling cars that he persuaded Charles W. Englehard (an American mining tycoon with interests in South Africa) to back a takeover of Neon Products Ltd. There have been many takeovers since then, and Kelly does a fair job of explaining the process.

Clear writing and a succinct but unusually good index enhance this readable and useful book.


Kelly, Russell, “Pattison: Portrait of a Capitalist Superstar,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 10, 2023,