National Post editor-at-large Diane Francis was on CBC Radio’s The Current with Anna-Maria Tremonti today, talking about her exciting new book, Who Owns Canada Now?

In the book, Francis exposes the extent to which the Canadian Establishment contrinues to morph and change. The reigning plutocracy that owned so much of the country twenty years ago (when Francis wrote Controlling Interest: Who Owns Canada) has given way to a multitude of self-made billionaires (more than the Forbes list acknowledges, Francis claims). And this new group doesn’t look anything like their predecessors at the top. To a large extent, they are of the Gates and Buffett school – the type of international entrepreneurs who aren’t likely to hand over their businesses to soft-headed children.

A business writing vet with a mind like a steel trap, Francis seems to have convinced a large number of otherwise reclusive billionaires on to her conversation couch. We haven’t read the book yet, but based on the interview (Tremonti’s are always good) it sounds like an intriguing look at money and influence in today’s Canada.

You can listen to the show here.

We’ve always tried to make Kickstart’s underlying philosophy one of helping others. The book tries to use the words of successful Canadians in order to point the way for those young adults whose real lives are just beginning. We include ourselves, for obvious reasons, in this latter category. We’ve learned an awful lot from those who were generous enough to donate their time. Whether it’s about being a ballerina, an entrepreneur or a librarian, we feel that others can learn a lot too.

But maybe there’s something for which we can actually help…

Publishing. This has been a question many young people have on their minds these days – especially those looking to try their hand at writing. Do we have any advice? Well, perhaps. We’re just starting out on this adventure known as publishing a book: hell, we haven’t even had our launch yet. But, with the help of our great publisher Dundurn, we’ve learned a thing or two about getting our book into stores.

First of all, money talks. Every time you see a cookbook at the front of a bookstore, or wonder why your favourite novel has its own little shelf under the Fiction category, there’s a reason. At the large retail chains this usually has to do with how much push a book is getting from its publisher. It’s not the staff being creative with a store’s presentation (which is what we’d always thought). Every placement is the result of a specific agreement, usually made at the top of the chain of command.

We’ve already tried to seek out our book in the great Indigos of Toronto. One particular store was hording it in the backroom, which is understandable: it usually takes a few weeks for a bookstore to process a delivery of books from a distributor. We had to push for them to agree to bring the book to the shelves a little early. Thank you, Indigo.

In fact, in this country, a lot relies on that particular chain. Say what you will about the disappearance of small mom and pop operations, if you get your book into Indigo/Chapters, you’re set. Especially if Heather Reisman likes your style. The jury is currently out on what she thinks of ours… but we know that Ms. Reisman is on the same page as us: she believes in respectful entrepreneurship (see her fantastic Entrepreneur Series with Peter Munk and Jim Pattison, two of our own favourite interviewees), as do we; and she supports great Canadian writing (especially prominent in her Heather’s Picks section). We’re not sure if we fit into this last category, but we’re big fans of those who do. We hope that a relationship with Indigo/Chapters develops. Because, for first time authors, so much relies upon it.


A (somewhat) helpful vid on publishing…

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When news came down the wire that Daryl Katz, the Forbes list owner of Katz Group Inc., whose 1,800 drugstores across the continent include Rexall, Pharma Plus, I.D.A, and Guardian outlets, had received 100% of the shares in the Edmonton Oilers, we thought to look into just who Katz was and how he got started.

While his pitch to shareholders included character testimonials from big names like Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, Katz is a notoriously private man – some have gone so far as to call him a prairie Bruce Wayne. That will likely change now that the self-proclaimed Oilers super fan has bought the franchise amid almost universal fanfare.

Edmontonians seem to like Katz, and its understandable why. The son of a pharmacist attended the University of Alberta for both his B.A. and his law degree and then dabbled in the frozen yogurt market before he and his father bought the Canadian franchise rights to Medicine Shoppe Pharmacies in 1991. From there, the Katz family’s private company grew and grew. Six years later, it began acquiring new assets at fire-sale prices through leveraged buyouts and then cutting management prices to make them affordable. The Katz Group is now the seventh largest drugstore chain on the continent, with its 46 year-old’s personal wealth estimated at $2 billion.

Check out this article by Gordon Pitts in the Globe and Mail in 2004. In it, Katz explains how his small business owner’s mentality has kept him insecure, and thus on-guard. It also shows how Katz adapted to growth.

Here’s another great profile from Keith Gerein of the Edmonton Journal from earlier this year.