Sunday, 15 May 2011

Wallace McCain Dies at 81



Wallace McCain (centre-left) is seen in 1957, the year he opened the first McCain Foods potato processing plant in Florenceville, N.B. with a staff of 30.
Wallace McCain (centre-left) is seen in 1957, the year he opened
the first McCain Foods potato processing plant in
Florenceville, N.B. with a staff of 30

Wallace McCain, co-founder of McCain Foods, dies at 81
Published On Sat May 14 2011

Dana Flavelle Business Reporter   The Star


 Wallace McCain, co-founder of McCain Foods and chairman of Maple Leaf Foods, has died after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81. The son of a New Brunswick potato seed exporter, McCain became a scion of Canadian business and a major philanthropist. Together with his brother Harrison he co-founded McCain Foods Ltd., now a $6-billion-a-year frozen French fry empire that exports to more than 60 countries.

Later ousted from the firm in a succession battle, Wallace and his sons, Scott and Michael, bought a stake in Toronto’s struggling Maple Leaf Foods Inc. and through acquisitions built another multinational brand.

With his wife Margaret, McCain was also a noted philanthropist, supporting a range of causes, from Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital to Canada’s National Ballet School and New Brunswick’s Mount Allison University.

For the past year, the man described as a straight talker with a self-deprecating manner had faced another kind of battle, this one with cancer.

“Wallace McCain was an inspiration, as a father, businessman and humanitarian,” said Michael McCain, Wallace’s son and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Foods.

“His incredible success in business was always balanced with the importance of family and community. He had unwavering values that defined him and everything he did. My family and the entire Maple Leaf community deeply mourn his passing, but also celebrate his life and the contribution he made to so many people.”

Born in 1930 in the small farming village of Florenceville, N.B., Wallace McCain was one of six children of Laura and A.D. McCain, a potato seed exporter.  In their 20s, Wallace and his brother Harrison, with the support of their older brothers Robert and Andrew, decided to start their own business.

They opened the first McCain Foods potato processing plant in Florenceville in 1957 with a staff of 30. The company grew rapidly into a multi-billion dollar global French fry and frozen foods business.  But the brothers had a falling out over who should succeed them.
In 1995, with the help of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, Wallace and his sons bought a 33 per cent stake in Maple Leaf Foods.

Together, they built the food-processing firm into a $5-billion-a-year firm, acquiring such leading brands as Maple Leaf, Schneiders, and a majority stake in Canada Bread Inc., makes of Dempster’s brand bread.  “Wallace made an indelible impact on Maple Leaf Foods, our country and the food industry globally,” said Purdy Crawford, Maple Leaf Food’s lead director.  “He had a rare gift for business that was driven by his personal courage, love of people, and sharp insights. His incredible accomplishments came about because of his perseverance, humility and belief in others.”

Wallace’s passing comes at a critical time for the leading food processor.
The Teachers’ Pension Plan decided to sell its stake last year and an activist investor, West Face Capital, bought into the firm and demanded a seat on its board.

Maple Leaf Foods has since undertaken a major restructuring program that includes consolidating and upgrading many of its plants, entering new products categories.
The move came two years after the company had finally begun recovering from a tragic listeria outbreak that claimed 21 lives. Michael McCain was credited with saving the company by taking full public responsibility for the problem and swift action to address its cause.

Wallace is survived by his wife Margaret, who became New Brunswick’s first female. Lieutenant Governor, his four children and nine grandchildren.  His successor as chairman will be determined by the Maple Leaf Foods board.  His funeral will be held at St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto on May 20. For more information, please visit www.wallacemccaintribute.ca.

(The McCain family originates in Donegal and has branches in Canada and the USA)

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