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January, 2008


Coyote Morning

The Life And Passing Of A Canadian Treasure
Publishing magnate, billionaire, philanthropist, and more
By  Rowdy Rhodes

T
he 2nd Baron Thomson of Fleet of Northbridge in the City of Edinburgh probably doesn't ring many writers' memory bells, but the name Ken Thomson should. This is especially so for Canadian writers, authors, publishers, and artists.

Ken, as he liked to be known, was Canada's richest publishing patrician and largest individual philanthropist in the country. He was a shy, unassuming, quiet individual with perseverance, vision and dedication to his work. On Monday, June 12, 2006, at the age of 82, sitting in his office before any of his staff had arrived for what they expected would be just another workweek, Ken passed away from a heart attack.

Ken was one of the top ten wealthiest men in the world, with a family value of 19.6 billion dollars (US). This man, who once upon a cold winter's night streaked down the main street of Kirkland Lake, Ontario, was a complex, down-to-earth individual.

His father, Roy Thomson, was no featherweight financial genius either, and Ken felt the ever-present need to emerge from the shadow of his father's successes. He wanted to create his own success, in his own way, with his own passions.

With that motivation, in 1976 upon inheriting his father's immense and financially successful newspaper publishing operation located in the United Kingdom, Ken moved the organization back to its Canadian origins. With the vast Canadian publishing frontier before him he established his own style of publishing and business dealings nationally and globally.

He very ingeniously invested in, and moved back out of, oil stocks. He raised the bar for publishers when he moved into database publishing and modified his company from print-based media to a web-based provider of information. He was internationally successful with purchasing and selling national newspapers abroad. He exceeded his father by far, expanding and developing a global business corporation that has held, to this day, tremendous influence in the publishing, political, and business arenas.

Yet at the same time, he loved miniature collectibles, became excited over bakery sales, and although majority owner of Canada's National Globe and Mail Newspaper, he rarely intervened or became involved in editorial issues, except for the occasional telephone call to the office upon discovering an error in the crossword.

He had his fair share of eccentricities – a lunch habit of tuna sandwiches on dry bread with no mayonnaise or onions. He developed a reputation as a penny pincher – a financial disposition also inherited from his father. And, once he stopped a taxi he had hired in London, England to buy a copy of The Sunday Times even though he owned the newspaper company.

Ken was also a loving family man, supporter of the arts, Chairman of the Humane Society of Canada, and a unique individual who truly cared about the world and nature around
him.

The deeper one digs into this man's history, the greater and more impressive the individual becomes. Although he was Canada's titan of the publishing industry – with a variety of peers such as Conrad Black, John Tory, William Thorsell, Steve Stavro, John Band, and many other financial, publishing, and political powerhouses – he stayed true to himself and his unique personal nature.

He stayed true by simply being Ken. He maintained a deep appreciation of the Group of Seven painters. He delighted in walking his dog near his Rosedale home in Toronto. He enjoyed frequent visits to The Royal Ontario Museum. All of his habits indicate that this man had not allowed his enormous financial success to supersede the importance of living and enjoying the simplicity of life itself.

Because of that self-effaced, unassuming, industrious attitude, Canada's publishing, financial, arts, and environmental industries gained his lifetime of contribution and, this month, suffered an infinite loss with his passing. His reputation will live on forever in stories about a man who walked his dog and created a publishing empire. Lord Thomson II, Ken, will be sorely missed and never forgotten for his contributions.

Wife Marilyn, his sons David and Peter, his daughter Taylor, his sister Audrey Campbell, and their families survive him and our condolences go out to them for their personal loss.

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Rowdy Rhodes is the Site Manager of The Freelance Writing Organization International and General Manager of Inkwell Newswatch (IN). He is also known to freelance an article or two when the fancy strikes him. If you are looking for written content for your website, ezine, or print publication, drop him a line at rowdyrhodes@fwointl.com and he'll get back to you as soon as possible.

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