The 50 Most Influential People in Toronto: who really runs this city?
You know you live in interesting times when the chief of police is the most powerful person in town. What propelled Chief Blair to the top of our Influentials list was Rob Ford’s Crackgate—a story that consumed the city for much of the last year and whose bewildering narrative is still being written. Of course, Ford wasn’t the only politician who behaved badly in 2013. Chronic dysfunction is evident at all levels of government, from the petty infighting at city hall to the crippling gamesmanship at Queen’s Park and the expense scandals on Parliament Hill. And yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. Some of the city’s most formidable leaders are outside the traditional halls of power: global hip-hop stars, tech titans, gossip bloggers and guitar-strumming astronauts, among others. The people ranked here all did something in 2013 that made an impact on our lives, for better or for worse. Our list demonstrates that sometimes influence is enduring, sometimes it’s fickle and sometimes it rests on a single cellphone video that could forever change the complexion of the city.
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Oh, to know what the chief of police knows. In June, after Blair’s force conducted the massive raid centred on the notorious Dixon Road apartment complex in north Etobicoke—the culmination of a year-long investigation dubbed Project Traveller—the chief held a press conference in which he refused to answer the one question on the tongue-tip of every journalist in the room: does the Rob Ford crack video exist? Well, now we know the answer. Detectives had apparently learned of the video through wiretaps and later took to monitoring the mayor’s movement from a Cessna. In late October, Blair held a second press conference, in which he revealed more, but not everything. The chief now finds himself holding the proverbial hot potato in one of the most politically sensitive investigations in the city’s history. By dealing with the mayor in such a methodical, professional manner (“without fear or favour,” as he repeatedly put it), Blair has restored some measure of dignity to our broken city. Friends in high places: Last summer, Blair was among the guests at a dinner hosted by John Tory and his wife, Barbara Hackett. Other law and order invitees included Valerie and Andy Pringle (member of the Police Services Board), and Christie Blatchford (crime junkie).
Yes, she heads a minority government, and yes, she was elected by her party—not by the people of Ontario—but her office controls $120 billion in annual spending and makes all the policy decisions that matter most to Torontonians—transit, education, infrastructure. Since taking office in February, Wynne has made some highly strategic plays, including mending fences with the teachers’ unions, scaling back the government’s commitment to pricey renewable energy and promising $1.4 billion for the controversial Scarborough subway expansion. She’s also in charge of every significant political appointment in the province, including the heads of two government cash cows, the OLGC and the LCBO. After firing Paul Godfrey from the OLGC in May, she installed the veteran Bay Street banker Philip Olsson (former chair of the liquor board) to help modernize the agency and carry out her vision of a casino-free downtown. As the first premier to hail from Toronto in nearly 20 years, Wynne is plugged in to the city’s political apparatus: she held such high-profile posts as minister of education (instituting full-day kindergarten) and transportation (negotiating funding for the now-defunct Transit City plan). For that reason, you won’t see her spending much time glad-handing on the streets of Toronto in preparation for a possible spring election. Instead, she’s out in rural Ontario—at the annual International Plowing Match in Mitchell, for example—trying to drum up support in Hudakland. She figures that, in Toronto at least, her grip on power is assured. Secret weapons: Wynne has the ear of the highly connected former MPP Greg Sorbara, one of the few McGuinty insiders to maintain ties with the premier’s office.
The third baron Thomson of Fleet and his rally car–driving younger brother are Canada’s most reclusive billionaires, but lately they’ve been veritable extroverts. For David, it started a year ago, when he said goodbye to the extravagant and gregarious Geoff Beattie—the head of the family holding company, Woodbridge, and the mastermind behind the underwhelming Reuters merger. He replaced him with long-time Woodbridge executive David Binet, a shy penny-pincher better suited to the Thomson family ethos. The move is a sign David is taking a more active role in the company. Since then, he hired Andrew Rashbass, the former CEO of the Economist Group, to turn around Thomson-Reuters’ fortunes. The company’s stock is up 20 per cent this year, placing David 24th on Forbes’s list of the world’s wealthiest people, with a net worth of $20 billion. Peter recently gave $5 million to Toronto East General Hospital (relative pennies, we know, but the public donation was a surprising break from the family’s normally secretive ways) and his private equity firm, Thomvest Seed Capital, took a controlling stake in Public Mobile in June, then flipped it to Telus in the fall. Up next: The Thomsons control the Globe and Mail, and, despite the paper’s sinking ad revenues, they’re moving the organization to a 17-storey Diamond Schmitt–designed head office now under construction on King East.
The head of the biggest telecommunications outfit in the country oversees a company with $20 billion in revenue and 55,500 employees. In July, he became even more powerful when BCE acquired Astral Media for $3 billion, putting him in charge of the Movie Network. Cope is also at the centre of Toronto’s sports universe as BCE’s representative on the board of MLSE. He, along with his Rogers competitor Nadir Mohamed (and Mohamed successor Guy Laurence, who takes over this month), holds the balance of power in any high-level decision making over the Leafs, Raptors and TFC. Cope was behind the firing of Leafs GM Brian Burke, whose hotheaded reputation was seen as a liability for Bell’s most visible asset. The timing—on the eve of the truncated 2013 season—seemed questionable, but it was calculated: Cope couldn’t risk the Leafs getting off to a strong start and Burke being hailed as a hero. Side gigs: He champions Bell’s annual Let’s Talk Day, a mental health campaign that’s expected to raise $62 million. He’s also chair of this year’s ambitious $117-million United Way campaign.
When Stephen Harper announced his cabinet shuffle in July, the only post widely deemed to be a lock was that of finance minister. Jim Flaherty is now the third longest serving holder of that office in Canadian history, and the measure of his success will be his ability to balance the federal books by 2015. He’s on track to do it. The feisty MP for Whitby-Oshawa (and the minister responsible for the GTA) suffers from a rare skin disease, but that hasn’t kept him from exercising his considerable power over major municipal and provincial projects—most notably transportation. In June, he made the controversial announcement that Pickering would be the site of a new international airport, the anchor for future development in the area. In September, after years of spectacular silence on the issue of transit funding in Toronto—apart from shooting down Metrolinx’s proposal to raise the provincial portion of the HST by one per cent—Flaherty committed $660 million to the Scarborough subway expansion. Up next: He pleased his Bay Street friends when he announced Ottawa, Ontario and B.C.’s joint agreement to form a new national securities regulator to replace the country’s current patchwork of provincial commissions. The new agency will be based in Toronto and make it easier to prosecute white-collar criminals.
In an interview timed to the September release of his latest album, Nothing Was the Same, the hip-hop mogul joked that Tourism Toronto should put him on the payroll because of all the attention he brings to his home city. Typical rapper braggadocio, to be sure, but also true. Besides landing our city on the music map (Nothing—replete with Toronto references—debuted at number one on the album charts), Drake has made significant contributions to our music-based economy. This summer, his sold-out OVO Fest at the Molson Amphitheatre featured performances by Diddy and Kanye West. (OVO stands for October’s Very Own—a shout-out to Drizzy’s b-day.) He is also fostering local talent—rapper PartyNextDoor and the pop duo Majid Jordan—on his OVO label. Over the summer Drake was named the most influential hip-hop star on social media, outranking Jay-Z, Kanye and Drake’s mentor Lil Wayne. So yes, the right people are talking about Drake. As for his unofficial gig as a city booster, that happened too, when the long-time Raptors season ticket holder was hired in September as the team’s image consultant and global ambassador, tasked with helping rebrand the mojo-deficient franchise. Friends in high places: Tim Leiweke, George Cope, Rihanna, Amir Johnson.
In September, Dell Inc. won shareholder approval to buy back its stock and take the company private, a $24.8-billion offer CEO Michael Dell was able to make thanks to the backing of some of the biggest financial players in the world—the private equity behemoth Silver Lake Partners and a handful of banks including Bank of America, Credit Suisse and, surprisingly, Royal Bank of Canada. RBC’s involvement in the deal is a sure sign that Nixon’s investment banking–focused strategy has made the company a major presence on the international stage, and Nixon’s compensation reflects that: last year he raked in $12.6 million, more than his U.S. counterparts at the Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup. RBC has posted record profits during Nixon’s tenure (reaching $7.5 billion last year) and grown to 80,000 employees. In August, he announced that Katie Taylor, a 12-year veteran of the RBC board, would take over as chair in January, making his bank the first in Canada to appoint a female chair. Up next: Nixon is chief instigator behind Aequitas, a proposed new stock exchange to rival the TMX. The effort is backed by heavy hitters like CI Financial, IGM Financial and Barclays.
The former CEO of the L.A.-based juggernaut Anschutz Entertainment Group blew into town in April like a California wildfire, carving a path of destruction through MLSE. Leiweke took the axe to several execs and employees, including the Raptors honcho Bryan Colangelo (a long overdue, if unceremonious, dumping), the popular basketball scout Alvin Williams and TFC general manager Kevin Payne. He also elbowed out his number two, Tom Anselmi. Owners Tanenbaum, Cope and Mohamed clearly see him as the perfect vehicle for the ongoing commercialization of their real estate and entertainment holdings. At AEG, Leiweke masterminded L.A. Live, a four-million-square-foot entertainment hub adjacent to the Staples Center featuring condos, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs (sound familiar?). He also ran the acclaimed Coachella music festival. Don’t be surprised to see a similar festival in the GTA long before the Stanley Cup. Friends in high places: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NBA commissioner David Stern.
Weston was slow to emerge from his parents’ shadow and make his own mark on the cultural and business landscape. Now he has stepped up—and in a major way. At the end of last year, he created the second biggest real estate investment trust in the country, Choice Properties, with $7 billion worth of Loblaw-owned real estate. The REIT went public in July, raising $1 billion for the company. That same month, he announced Loblaw’s $12.4-billion takeover of Shoppers Drug Mart, a deal three and a half years in the making. Crisis management: He was one of only two corporate leaders doing business at the collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh to immediately speak publicly about the disaster, which killed more than 1,100 workers. He vowed to compensate the victims’ families and push for better government oversight of the country’s multibillion-dollar garment industry.
As the executive director of the Ontario Securities Commission, Jenson, a former geologist and the daughter of a Falconbridge engineer, is the most feared person on Bay Street. This year, the OSC has brought cases against Ian Telfer, the chair of the massive mining firm Goldcorp, who agreed to pay a $200,000 settlement, and (in the category of better late than never) against Peter Atkinson, John Boultbee and Conrad Black, over their alleged misconduct as directors of Hollinger Inc. Her most significant undertaking is a controversial proposal requiring large publicly traded companies to report on the gender makeup of their boards—a response to the fact that 43 per cent of the country’s corporate boards have no female directors. Her “comply or explain” policy is similar to an existing OSC guideline concerning the hiring of independent board members—a policy most corporations have voluntarily followed. Game changer: In October, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan not only endorsed Jensen’s gender proposal, it upped the ante, asking that the OSC require public companies to have at least three female board members or face being delisted from the stock exchange.
It’s fitting that Deluce, Porter’s founder and CEO, chose a raccoon as his company’s mascot. Just like the upstart airline, the ubiquitous mammal is wily, territorial and divisive—either adorable or a pest, depending on your point of view. But there’s no denying that Deluce has single-handedly transformed the island airport (not to mention air travel), and probably for good. Over the past seven years, Porter has grown from two planes travelling between Toronto and Ottawa to 26 turboprops flying to 19 northeastern destinations. It’s the airline of choice for politicos and power brokers, for whom the city centre hub has become an indispensable business tool. Now Deluce is trying to lift the island’s long-standing ban on jets so he can add up to 30 Bombardier CS100s to his fleet (at a cost of $2.29 billion) in order to fly further afield. He’ll likely get his way. As one city bureaucrat put it: “This is a very odd set of circumstances, where a tenant drives the process.” Ah, but Deluce has been driving the process all along. Friends in high places: Lisa Raitt, Don Carty, Pamela Wallin.
He heads one of the biggest pension funds in the world, but he runs it like a nimble private equity firm, scooping up huge foreign real estate and infrastructure assets. His fund executed 87 deals in 11 countries last year, yielding a 10 per cent return on its $189 billion in assets. These are the invested retirement contributions for approximately 18 million Canadians, whose future is in his hands. In September, CPPIB partnered with a U.S. private equity firm to buy Neiman Marcus (including its two Bergdorf Goodman stores in Manhattan) for $6 billion. Growing pains: CPPIB recently bought the 500,000-square-foot One Queen East for $220 million to house its rapidly expanding workforce.
Under Clark, TD grew to become not only the second biggest bank in Canada, but the 10th largest in the United States. Little surprise that when it came time to choose his successor, Clark picked Bharat Masrani, then head of the company’s U.S. banking operations. (Masrani, currently TD’s COO, will take over when Clark retires in November of next year.) In the meantime, Clark continues his hands-on approach to running the 85,000-employee operation. In September, he struck a deal with CIBC for half of its profitable Aeroplan business. This year, he was once again named one of the 30 best CEOs in the world by Barron’s, which pointed out that TD had higher returns than both Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase. Charity circuit: The so-called banker with a heart (Clark is known for his progressive public policy views) recently donated $10 million worth of his TD shares to charity.
His stock diminished slightly when Premier Wynne undermined Metrolinx, the provincial transit authority he chairs, by announcing yet another panel to study transit funding. After all, it was only in May that Metrolinx, surely the least understood public agency in town, released its own funding recommendations for the Big Move, which seeks to ease commuter congestion throughout the GTA. They’d spent months consulting with the experts and the public, and the response from Queen’s Park was a resounding “meh.” But he is still the most connected man in Toronto, and he heads one of the city’s most powerful entities: Metrolinx has 200 infrastructure projects on the go or completed across the region—including the Union Pearson Airport express, the Eglinton Crosstown and York Region’s Viva rapid transit route, the first section of which opened in August. Through Metrolinx alone, Prichard oversees $2.5 billion in spending a year. Friends in high places: Galen and Hilary Weston, Heather Reisman and Gerald Schwartz, Charles and Marilyn Baillie.
The man is responsible for the happy retirement of 430,000 public sector workers and has more than $60 billion in assets under his control. Last year, OMERS teamed up with Japan’s Pension Fund Association and Mitsubishi to launch the $7.5-billion Global Strategic Investment Alliance, the largest infrastructure investment fund in the world. The group plans to invest in major projects in North America and Europe, and is expected to upend the way such large-scale investments are managed. This summer, the GSIA made its first investment, buying a one-third stake in the largest natural gas co-generation plant in the U.S. Meanwhile, OMERS Ventures, Nobrega’s $180-million venture capital investment group, has become one of the city’s savviest tech players, investing in such high profile startups as Wattpad, HootSuite and Desire2Learn. Secret weapon: John Ruffolo, who runs OMERS Ventures, assembled a formidable team of directors and advisors, including Kobo’s Mike Serbinis and the former RIM CEO Jim Balsillie.
Levy is helping spruce up not only Ryerson but also the entire east end of downtown through his work on the board of Waterfront Toronto. He has the ears of business leaders, community groups and government officials. Word has it the visionary academic has been called upon by both the premier and Infrastructure Ontario to consult on a number of new city projects, including the revitalization of Ontario Place. One of the approved Ontario Place proposals is a new world-class research centre, which the government hopes will be a partnership between a Toronto university (say, Ryerson) and an international institution—similar to the Technion-Cornell applied science and engineering campus being built on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. If it happens, Levy’s golden touch will extend to the west end of the city as well. Crisis management: When the Ryerson president struck a deal to buy the old Sam the Record Man building on Yonge Street, he agreed to re-hang the store’s famous neon sign. That was before he knew how much it would cost: $250,000. But he stickhandled his way through the backlash with aplomb.
From saving libraries to chiding politicians to changing our national anthem, Atwood’s activism has made her the de facto leader of Toronto’s literary crowd. It’s hard to think of a more connected (literally and figuratively) writer. Atwood has so embraced the new media technology as to become a one-woman publicity machine. She has 430,000 Twitter followers, to whom she regularly disseminates news of this environmental petition or that arts event. She made national headlines when she tweeted her support for a campaign to shame Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz into reintroducing notable Canadian women onto our currency. Who needs a publicist? In September, the savvy self-promoter published an essay on Wattpad describing the process of writing her new novel, MaddAddam, a behind-the-scenes account for hard-core fans.
He’s a major developer whose fingerprints are all over the city, including the ACC and its surrounding real estate, BMO Field, and the new Pan Am athletes’ village. But the act that reverberated across this sports-mad city was his decision to hire Tim Leiweke as the new CEO of MLSE. Leiweke hails from the Los Angeles–based Anschutz Entertainment Group—a sports conglomerate that oversees the Lakers, Kings and Galaxy, and is quadruple the size of MLSE—a sign that Tanenbaum is hoping his new executive will help build the organization into an even bigger powerhouse, possibly by adding an NFL team. Tanenbaum is Toronto’s point man on some of North America’s biggest sports bodies: the boards of the NHL, NBA and MLS. Charity circuit: He’s a prominent philanthropic force who gave $35 million to Mount Sinai Hospital’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Institute in June.
His redesign of the north side of King Street between John and the Royal Alex is so loud and ambitious it’s almost theatrical. He plans to tear down the Princess of Wales theatre and a series of low-rise warehouse buildings and replace them with a triptych of 80-plus-storey, Frank Gehry–designed towers that can only be described as otherworldly. The new buildings will house an extension of OCAD and an art gallery for Mirvish’s legendary private collection of modern art. To help fund the project, he sold the 1.8-hectare parcel of land known as Mirvish Village (including the legendary Honest Ed’s building) to a Vancouver-based luxury developer. Up next: He’ll attempt to reclaim some of the millions he’s owed on three Jackson Pollock paintings that turned out to be fakes.
When the Warren Buffett of the north stepped down from the board of BlackBerry—of which he already owned 10 per cent—we knew something big was in the works. A month later, Watsa announced a CPPIB-backed proposal to buy the one-time tech giant for $4.7 billion. That’s a massive drop from the $80 billion value ascribed to the company five years ago, and a testament to Watsa’s predilection for bargain hunting. He intends to keep the company fully Canadian and rebuild it as a private entity. His bullishness suggests that, once again, the Bay Street soothsayer sees value in something we non-believers don’t. Side projects: Watsa is chancellor of the University of Waterloo, a position previously held by his good friend (and potential rival for BlackBerry) Mike Lazaridis.
The former director of consumer news for Thomson-Reuters in New York isn’t the first person to write about income inequality, but her book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, was so well timed and such a critical and commercial success that she became the go-to spokesperson on the growing wealth gap and the shrinking middle class. This year, Freeland and her family moved to Toronto so she could run as the federal Liberal candidate in the influential riding of Toronto Centre. Win or lose, she’s here to stay and will continue to be a prominent voice on one of the most pressing issues of this century. Friends in high places: The super-connected writer counts David Thomson, Mark Carney, Mark Wiseman and George Soros among her vast network of contacts.
After Doug Ford famously threatened to turn the Port Lands into an amusement park, Campbell, a former Brookfield executive, remained calm and followed the old adage: the best defence is a good offence. He reminded council that the multibillion-dollar project, funded evenly by all three levels of government, was already 10 years along. He then proceeded to advertise every Waterfront Toronto project in order to win over public approval. It wasn’t hard to do. His organization is behind Sherbourne Common, Sugar Beach, Corktown Common, the wavedecks and boardwalks on the central waterfront, the Queens Quay revitalization and, soon, the massive East Bayfront development at the bottom of the Don River. The agency has more than made back its initial investment of $1.5 billion, generating $2.6 billion in private-sector deals and accolades for its award-winning designs. Campbell needn’t worry about fantasy Ferris wheels anymore. Friends in high places: He oversaw the development of Brookfield Place at Bay and Wellington, and is still buddies with his old Brookfield colleagues Jack Cockwell and Bruce Flatt.
In 2007, Astral Media bought Standard Radio—the biggest privately owned broadcasting outfit in the country—from the Slaight family for $1 billion. Since then, Gary has been a white knight for arts organizations like Luminato and Soulpepper. The family foundation has given millions to SickKids, War Child, the Stephen Lewis Foundation and many others. It’s committed $72 million to Princess Margaret, and $10 million each to the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation, St. Michael’s Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and Mount Sinai Hospital. Money talks: The family’s holding company is one of Toronto’s most sought-after sources of capital and a major investor in small- to mid-cap companies, many of which are in the technology sector.
Their partnership is a juggernaut. Reisman, one of two Canadians (along with Ed Clark) on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group, is in full command of the retail book industry in Canada. Schwartz’s Onex Corporation, of which he controls more than 60 per cent, manages $16-billion worth of assets. Reisman is currently planning to expand Indigo Books and Music abroad, a move no doubt facilitated by her husband, who sits on the company’s board (just as she sits on Onex’s). They recently finished building a new home in Malibu, from which they’ll solidify their role as the most connected Torontonians in Hollywood. Up next: They recently donated $5 million to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for its new museum. The money will pay for the building’s mezzanine lobby and gallery, which will be called—surprise, surprise—the Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman Mezzanine Gallery.
The six-foot-five German cut an imposing swath through the city’s cultural scene when he took over as artistic director of Luminato. Weisbrodt brought worldly connections and discernment to the amorphous multidisciplinary festival, anchoring the 200-event schedule with such big-name draws as Marina Abramovic´ and Joni Mitchell. (That the reclusive and enigmatic Mitchell performed is a testament to Weisbrodt’s powers of persuasion.) The result was a festival that broke attendance records, selling upwards of $1 million in tickets, and made critics swoon. Friends in high places: He and husband Rufus Wainwright are an art-world power duo. Guests at their Montauk wedding last year included Abramovic´ , Carrie Fisher, Julianne Moore, Antony Hegarty, Lou Reed, Yoko Ono, Laurie Anderson, the fashion designers Victor and Rolf, and Jorn and Rufus’s daughter, Viva Cohen (granddaughter of Leonard).
He reigns over the most important cultural event in the city, generating nearly $200 million in economic activity, many millions in film distribution deals and more buzz than Rob Ford on a bender. This year’s film festival was the most successful yet, with record attendance and 432,000 tickets sold. Despite TIFF’s primary focus on promoting independent cinema, Bailey continues to leverage its reputation as a launch pad for Oscar-worthy films: for the last six years, the Best Picture winner has screened at TIFF. Under Bailey, the festival has become producer Harvey Weinstein’s favourite test market (he had eight films here this year). Friends in high places: Matt Galloway, Clement Virgo, NFB chief Tom Perlmutter.
The venerable litigator proved he is still a force when he convinced three Ontario Divisional Court judges to overrule Rob Ford’s conflict of interest conviction. Lenczner’s big win seemed to send Ford into party mode, spurring reports of drunken behaviour that culminated in, well, you know. In February, Lenczner was appointed a commissioner of the Ontario Securities Commission, which means he’ll spend about 80 days a year for the next two years making sure that Bay Streeters are following some of the very laws that he, in his work as a corporate securities litigator, had a hand in crafting. Up next: In May, he took on what has been called the biggest lawsuit in the world, representing a group of Amazon villagers and their legal team as they try to enforce an $18-billion judgment made against Chevron in an Ecuadorean court last year. The case promises to be a long uphill battle, but if Lenczner wins it’ll be the payoff of his career.
The DelZotto brothers—the undisputed condo kings of Toronto—managed to up their game just as the real estate market teetered. The family company successfully launched two high-profile projects this year—Ten York and Aqualina at Bayside—both on the waterfront, and both catering to an upscale market. Waterfront Toronto partnered with them to build Aqualina, the first phase of a massive development that will transform the lower eastern shoreline. The 10-year, $1-billion, two-million-square-foot project will be downtown’s largest master-planned community, featuring mixed-income residences, office buildings, retail shops and, perhaps most importantly, a welcoming waterfront. Bragging rights: This year, Leo was handed the inaugural Region Builder Award by the Toronto Region Board of Trade and an award for customer service from Tarion. George Brown named its school of construction management after Angelo.
The self-made impresario is the one to ask if you want to get on the guest list for one of his zillion trendsetting nightclubs, or if you need Leafs tickets, the season’s hottest purse or an audience with Bieber. In the last year alone, he launched Uniun, a mega-club on Adelaide West; Storys, a boutique cocktail parlour on King West; Buonanotte, a contemporary Italian restaurant; Patria, a Spanish tapas resto-bar; and, of course, Cabana Pool Bar, the adult oasis on the waterfront that brought Diddy’s Miami Beach to the Polson Pier. On big Saturday nights over the summer, Khabouth was hosting 15,000 at his various haunts, making him the city’s uncontested nightlife king. Up next: His $150-million Bisha hotel and residences (sold out since 2012) is scheduled to open on Blue Jays Way in 2015.
You know public funding for the arts has reached an all-time low when even a corporate title—yes, as in somebody’s job—is up for sale. Such was the case with Teitelbaum, who since 2005 has been known as the AGO’s Michael and Sonja Koerner director and CEO. The financial climate has forced Teitelbaum to up the ante on both fundraising and blockbuster shows. So far, he’s winning. Last year’s Picasso exhibit drew more than 300,000 visitors, contributing to a 40 per cent increase in overall gallery visits in 2012. This year’s big shows, the Ai Weiwei and David Bowie exhibits, may well surpass that. Power couple: Teitelbaum’s wife, Susan Cohen, serves as the executive director of the Garfield Weston Foundation.
His name is conspicuously absent from the list of potential mayoral candidates (so far, anyway), despite the fact that, for years, he has been touted as perfect mayor material. Perhaps he thinks he’s more effective in the role of shadow mayor, doing the city building for which he’s become known. His organization, manages more than $255 million worth of endowment funds—money from individuals and corporations—and channels them to neighbourhoods and non-profit organizations in need. The TCF’s annual Vital Signs Report is the most talked about, in-depth analysis of the state of the city, and has been replicated across Canada. Friends in high places: Martin Connell, John MacIntyre, Robert Prichard, Bahadur Madhani.
Her addictive celebrity-tracking blog, with its one million monthly readers, has made her the Oprah of the Facebook generation. When she recommends a book, it hits the bestseller list. When she endorses a beauty product, it’s soon on back order. Her Vancouver “skin magician,” Lorinda Zimmerman, has received enough business through Lui to open a location in Toronto. Last June, 1,000 of her fans attended a Brick Works event where she dished on Gwyneth Paltrow’s marriage and Paul Rudd’s douchebaggery. All of this adoration should serve Lui well when her book, an autobiography-self-help hybrid based on the teachings of her mom, “the Chinese Squawking Chicken,” comes out next spring. Up next: She recently signed a development deal with CTV and Amaze Film and Television to make a TV show based on her life.
When Colonel Hadfield posted his zero-gravity performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” online, it instantly became one of the most-watched YouTube videos of all time, with millions of views in a matter of hours. It was the culmination of Hadfield’s celebrity-making turn as the first Canadian commander of the International Space Station—a mission that was as remarkable for its scientific impact (he conducted 130 experiments) as its publicity coups (think phone call with Captain Kirk and ceremonial puck drop at the Leafs’ home opener). His collaboration with Barenaked Ladies’ front man Ed Robertson, “I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing?),” was broadcast from the Ontario Science Centre and involved a global chorus of a million kids. Terrestrial tour: The man who has done more to promote space exploration than anyone since Neil Armstrong has now embarked on a lucrative career as an author and a speaker, reportedly reaping upwards of $50,000 per engagement.
To his fans (Queen’s Park opposition members, journalists and other ombudsmen), he’s a tireless advocate for transparent, effective government and a champion of the so-called little guy. To his haters (the ruling Liberals, the police and the heads of government agencies), he’s a grandstanding crusader whose main interest is raising his own profile through publicity-generating causes. Every year, his office receives some 20,000 complaints, and usually half a dozen turn into full-blown investigations, like his recently announced probes into unlicensed daycares and, following the shooting of Sammy Yatim, into guidelines for use of force by police. Side gig: Marin devised a training course for fellow ombudsmen called Sharpening Your Teeth, which he has exported around the world.
In the telecom industry, he’s the shit-disturber-in-chief. The CEO of the perennial upstart Wind has emerged as a nemesis to Rogers, Bell and Telus, pushing for increased competition in the mobile sector and for the feds to loosen the rules around foreign ownership. Lacavera’s chief co-conspirator was the Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who sold his stake in Wind in 2011 to the Amsterdam-based telecommunications giant VimpelCom but remains an informal advisor to his younger protégé. VimpelCom’s deep pockets will ensure Wind’s participation in the government’s upcoming spectrum auction, scheduled for January 2014. CUL8R oligopoly!!!!! Secret weapon: Lacavera receives general advice from his sister, Catherine, the director of litigation at Google’s Silicon Valley headquarters.
Tim Leiweke and Leafs general manager Dave Nonis—who continues to work with the same blueprint left to him by former GM Brian Burke—may make all of the big financial decisions governing the team, but it’s Carlyle who’s ultimately in charge of what happens on the ice. Last season, the uncompromising coach proved he was in full command of his team when the Leafs unexpectedly took the Boston Bruins to game seven in the first round of the playoffs. It was the toughest series the Bruins had to play. Trademark: Carlyle is known for running gruelling workouts that keep his players in prime physical shape, and a meritocracy that keeps heads from swelling.
Since launching Q, his daily pop-culture-with-a-side-of-politics show, in 2007, Ghomeshi has welcomed a steady flow of cultural icons into his studio, turning a new generation onto our national broadcaster in the process. In the last year, he scored the only Canadian interview with the world’s most influential living artist, Ai Weiwei, a rare chat with Joni Mitchell and an interview with Chris Hadfield live from space. In his bestselling 2012 memoir, 1982, the son of Persian immigrants reflects on his younger self’s desperation to fit in with the suburban Toronto crowd. These days, he’s more comfortable standing out. Friends in high places: Justin Trudeau, Bob Rae, Feist.
Cooke reinvigorated the country’s largest daily with his focus on investigative reporting and obsession with holding powerful people and institutions to account. Donovan is his greatest weapon in this pursuit, a 30-year veteran of the Star and the head of its so-called I-Team. His lead on the Rob Ford crack saga—the mother of all Toronto political scandals—had readers glued for the better part of a month, and the story still dominates dinner table conversations across the city. The highlight reel of scandals broken by the I-Team: Ford being asked to leave the Garrison Ball; the revelation that Ford’s cronies had information about where the apparently non-existent video could be found; the Project Traveller arrests; the news that Sandro Lisi, Ford’s friend and occasional driver, had a violent history and had allegedly supplied drugs to His Worship. In other news: Donovan’s reporting on the Ornge air ambulance scandal led to a police investigation and a full strategic review designed to overhaul its operations.
She has proven to be the most vocal city planner in memory, holding public forums and appearing on radio and TV to espouse the virtues of walkable cities, or admonish city council for its highly politicized environment. She has sided against the mayor on such issues as bike lanes, subways and new tax revenues (“We are going to have to pony up,” she tweeted). Her planning roundtables bring together politicians, academics, developers and other stakeholders to discuss solutions to such pressing issues as aging infrastructure, income disparity and the changing suburbs. Big standoff: She took on David Mirvish over his massive King Street West development, saying it was simply too big. But now, in keeping with Keesmaat’s commitment to constructive dialogue, the two are talking about it.
Last year, the former principal secretary to Dalton McGuinty left his job as CEO of World Wildlife Canada to run Justin Trudeau’s Liberal leadership campaign. The two are old friends, dating back to their school days at McGill. The leadership race may not have been much of a contest, but Butts, a talented political strategist, has since proven his mettle, transforming the flaky MP into a serious contender for the highest office in the country. Trudeau’s announcement that he wanted to legalize marijuana, coupled with the revelation that he had smoked pot while in office, was a brilliant political move: it not only positioned him as the leading proponent of an idea that has support from a growing segment of the population, but also got out ahead of any Conservative attempts to label him a pothead. Butts has modelled the Liberal leader’s strategy on that of another upstart idealist south of the border, building a national grassroots movement largely comprised of younger voters persuaded by the promise of a new approach to government. Friends in high places: Alan Broadbent, Joseph Rotman.
The man who, at Alliance Atlantis, made “niche” synonymous with “expansion” continues his crusade to disrupt Toronto’s highly consolidated media industry through innovative specialized content. This year, Blue Ant Media, the multi-platform broadcast company he started in 2011, teamed up with the Smithsonian, the biggest museum complex in the world, to bring its eponymous TV channel to Canada. The new commercial-free HD channel will feature a range of programs—on science, nature, history—inspired by the museum’s collection. He also added Cottage Life TV and magazine versions of his channels Travel and Escape, and Aux. Ratings across all of Blue Ant’s TV channels have gone up an average of 70 per cent year over year, with subscription revenues now totalling approximately $32 million. Not bad for a three-year-old company. Side gig: His Open Roof Festival, a summer-long series of music performances and outdoor film screenings, moved to a permanent venue on Queens Quay East and drew thousands.
She was one of the most powerful executives at the CBC (after Kirstine Stewart) and a developer of the hugely successful Dragons’ Den and Battle of the Blades. Last summer, she left the broadcaster to launch her own international television production company and cleverly partnered with the deep-pocketed GroupM Entertainment, the global advertising and media behemoth headquartered in New York, as well as Jamie Oliver’s Fresh One Productions in the U.K. In the span of a few months, she has gone from an anonymous public broadcasting exec to the most sought-after producer in the country. Up next: Bristow recently acquired the Canadian rights to Hidden Talent, a phenomenally popular Channel 4 series about ordinary people with extraordinary gifts.
The CEO responsible for ensuring a safe and smooth commute for 2.7 million passengers a day is a lifelong transit lover who has taken a hands-on approach to fixing our beleaguered system. He has said the downtown relief line is more urgently needed than the Scarborough subway and is critical of the highly politicized approach to transit funding in the city, urging for “a calm debate whereby you look at all the data and you properly analyze what’s needed for the city—a network.” That’s the most reasonable thing anyone has said about transit this year. Up next: In the summer, Byford will be tackling the mess of aging tracks he inherited. He has proactively warned riders about the pending irritation of station closures, as if he shares our pain.
He’s the most famous pessimist on Bay Street, but he fills his clients with glee. Rosenberg was an economist at Bank of America–Merrill Lynch in New York when he predicted the 2008 meltdown—one of the few people on Wall Street to see it coming. In 2009, he was lured back to Toronto by Ira Gluskin and Gerry Sheff, founders of the namesake boutique money management firm, to be their chief economist and all-around guru. Money management is one of the few growth areas in the financial world, and Gluskin Sheff, which caters exclusively to high net worth individuals (minimum investment: $3 million), is perfectly positioned to capitalize on the booming business of helping the rich get richer. Rosenberg may be the most valuable part of that equation, burnishing Gluskin Sheff’s bronze shingle to a gleam. Global appeal: His daily e-newsletter, “Breakfast With Dave,” has thousands of subscribers around the world.
Scotia’s vice-chair and COO rules over the day-to-day operations like a sage. He orchestrated the bank’s $3.1-billion takeover of ING Direct Canada at the end of last year, and has been steering the two operations ever since. Other Scotia executives seek his counsel, as do the heads of non-profit groups and corporations. Despite nearly 35 years with Scotia, he has no ambition to take over the corner office and relishes his position as the most powerful deputy in the banking sector. Side gigs: Marwah joined the high-profile board of George Weston this year. He’s also a director at Cineplex and on the board of trustees for SickKids.
He built Mattamy into the biggest residential construction company in the country, with master-planned communities stretching from Ottawa to Oakville to Airdrie (that would be in Calgary). Some 60,000 houses later, the shy billionaire is giving back to the region he’s had a hand in populating: the GTA. He donated $40 million to SickKids for its state-of-the-art research centre on Bay, and $15 million to Ryerson for its athletic centre. He’s also helping fund a new velodrome, the Mattamy National Cycling Centre, for the Pan Am Games. Up next: He’s eyeing the city’s condo industry and waiting for the market to settle before jumping in.
The self-proclaimed urban crusader became a serious political player when she was elected as MPP of Scarborough-Guildwood in last summer’s by-elections. Running on a pro-subway platform, she helped Wynne’s minority government save face in what was otherwise a lacklustre showing. Her varied career history runs the gamut from corporate affairs to social enterprise to government agency to urban affairs to economic development. It’s also a textbook case study in how to become a city builder. Up next: Hunter, who has an MBA from Rotman, was appointed to the Liberals’ standing committee on finance and economic affairs, as well as to the standing committee on government agencies.
After maintaining a tight grip on the reins of Barrick Gold for years, Munk is on his way out—and has dropped far on our list. The long-serving chair owns less than one per cent of Barrick, but his famously dictatorial style was okay with shareholders so long as the company was performing well. When gold prices started to slide, the company’s stock fell 65 per cent. At Barrick’s AGM in April, shareholders voted against Munk’s plan to pay incoming co-chair John Thornton an $11.9-million signing bonus. The revolt was led by a group of pension funds, including Mark Wiseman at the CPPIB, and was a sign that Munk’s best-before date may have finally passed. Friends in high places: George Bush Sr., Brian Mulroney, Prince Charles.
She heads the Toronto studio of the French video game giant Ubisoft, the third biggest independent video game publisher in the world. Her branch has grown to 300 employees and recently released its first big project, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, an extension of the Tom Clancy–inspired action-adventure series. Raymond also produced the first two installments of the hugely successful, $55-million Assassin’s Creed franchise. She’s turning Toronto into a serious player in the thriving, multibillion-dollar gaming industry. Coming soon: Raymond’s office is spearheading the next generation of Splinter Cell.
A septuagenarian politician is an unlikely source of new life for Ontario’s PC party, but that’s exactly what Holyday became after winning the seat for Etobicoke-Lakeshore in a by-election in August. The one-time mayor of Etobicoke and former deputy mayor of Toronto, whose conditional (“show me the evidence”) support for Rob Ford calmed a frenzied, scandal-plagued city hall last spring, is now the lone Conservative MPP in the city. He is a key advisor to leader Tim Hudak on civic issues and, given his popularity among Toronto’s suburban voters, will play a significant role in the next provincial election. Friends in high places: Paul Godfrey, Robert Deluce.
17 thoughts on “The 50 Most Influential People in Toronto: who really runs this city?”
If Mr. Deluce gets his way, as your writer suggests he will, we will have seen the interests of Toronto discarded to suit the growth plans of one single private enterprise. Beyond that, the City will end up on the hook for the hundreds of millions of infrastructure that the airport expansion will require to prevent the traffic disaster that is Lakeshore and Bathurst from becoming a full-scale transportation meltdown. And who’s gonna pay? You and me. Time to stop the Gravy Plane.
Hey guys, check your links. Cameron Bailey’s goes to Allen Lenczner and the rest are all wrong from there on.
I love this list! It’s so great to see that you’ve included so many people from such varied walks of life. Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together. It really is a fascinating read!
Interesting and finally something more than bankers, real estate, and pension fund folks. Drake – what am I missing here, I see little of interest, the music is annoying, his voice is annoying, is it just that you are on the outside if you don’t get what he is about? I simply fail to understand any of the hype for this performer. And…when the number one slot is held by the chief of police…well one can only conclude – interesting times ahead.
David Miller, ex-Mayor of Toronto, Paul Bedford, former Chief Planner for the City of Toronto and Ken Greenberg, former Director of Urban Design and Architecture for the City of Toronto — some of the most important city builders in Toronto — are opposed to the jet expansion of the waterfront.
Fuel farms will have to be expanded beside the children’s school, and twice as much fuel trucked through residential neighbourhoods for the CS100s, which are twice the size and weight as the turboprops to duplicate international flights that are already happening at Pearson.
If Mr. Deluce cared about the City of Toronto, he can expand Porter at Pearson, and if Toronto Life cared about Toronto, you could stop giving him free publicity to destroy our waterfront and Island Parks system by expanding his airport. The Union-Pearson Air Rail Link will connect Pearson to downtown in 2015; it will be faster to get on that to go to Pearson than fight the crowds to Bathurst Quay.
And is Pamela Wallin someone you want to be connected with right now due to the Senate Scandal? Says a lot.
Mr Gilgan shy? For every donation, it seems they have to put his name on the building – not anonymous like others. And some donations made with money from doing shortcuts. http://oakvillehomes.wordpress.com
Why is Flaherty here? He represents Whitby, not Toronto. I imagine he spends most of his time in Ottawa, with visits home to Whitby. Probably only shows up in Toronto when the Big Boss wants him for propaganda showings.
I see Charles Khabouth made the list at #29. Then I look farther down the list and see an astronaut, the CEO of the TTC and a philanthropist who literally helped build our cities, our hospitals and our universities. You’ve got to be kidding me.
I trust Mr Deluce will be down several hundred spots by this time next year. The expansion of BBTCA for jets and private interests is the definition of insanity.
Elaine Lui? Get this joke off the list. The fact that she is ranked ahead of Cmdr. Chris Hadfield just shows how delusional this list is. Pathetic. Put someone else on this list who actually matters.
I can’t say for certain, but my guess is that to make this list, you need to meet one of two criteria (other than collecting mail in the GTA): 1) your influence is so obvious it’d be stupid not to include you, or 2) you party with someone on the Toronto Life editorial staff.
I look forward to one day reading about the silent power brokers in Toronto, the ones we never hear about but whose influence is felt everywhere. Somehow, I doubt I’ll find that kind of illuminating journalism in Toronto Life.
I like Elaine Lui because of her smile. She is a pretty girl. Visit us at Airport taxi Toronto
really really hope this is a joke…
If you think that Drake has done nothing for the city of Toronto than you are truly delusional. He has brought Toronto exposure on a global scale. He really did put us on the map.I thank Drake for that, for being so proud of his home and for telling the world about us.
David Thompson will forever be a hero to the citizens of Winnipeg for helping bring back our beloved Jets. Again, thank you, sir.
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