Canada Wide Media's Legge Family share Candidly at
UBC Sauder Gala
UBC Sauder’s Family Legacy Series gala presents something of a paradox. On one hand, you have a bagpipe procession, the singing of the national anthem, and some of the country’s most influential names in business dining in Vancouver’s most historic ballroom.
But all that formality is balanced by a familiarity; this 400 person event is at its core a family affair. This year, generations of some of Canada’s most prominent business families gathered at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver to honour Peter Legge and his family, the powerhouse team behind Canada Wide Media.
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Emceed by Global Television’s Chris Gailus, it was a veritable who’s who of Canadian business, with well-known personalities like Order of Canada recipient Joe Segal, UBC Sauder Business Families Centre co-founder David Bentall, and of course Peter Legge himself figuring prominently.
Among the guests were past Family Legacy Series honorees Larry Rosen, CEO and Chairman of Harry Rosen, and Derek Lee, President of the Prospero Group. Also in attendance were Hari and Madhu Varshney, whose contributions through the Varshney Business Career Centre have had, as Dean Robert Helsley said, a transformative effect on UBC Sauder students.
This year’s iteration of the annual event gave attendees the chance to hear the history of the Legges’ business in their own words; how Peter founded the company in 1976 with, as he put it, “a borrowed desk, a borrowed phone and half an editor,” and grew it into the largest independently owned media publishing company in Western Canada.
The evening unfolded as a candid conversation between Peter, his wife Kay and their three daughters, as well as key former Canada Wide Media executives like Karen Foss, Neil Soper and Heather Parker, who were integral to the company’s growth.
They shared their successes – and spoke openly about their missteps – as Peter and his team grew the company and eventually brought onboard two of Peter’s daughters, Samantha and Rebecca, who transformed from mid- and entry-level employees into senior executives.
“We both grew in the company slowly over time,” said Samantha. “We sat in the boardroom for years listening to how the executives make decisions.”
Today, Samantha is President and Rebecca is Vice President of Sales (Peter’s youngest daughter Amanda fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher).
“From a father’s perspective, it’s heaven,” said Peter. “And from a boss’ perspective, it’s heaven.”
Though for Samantha, like many second-generation leaders of family businesses, following in Peter’s footsteps came with its challenges.
“Peter is a gregarious leader, a big personality,” Samantha said. “I had to learn that that’s not the only way to lead. It’s important to be true to who you are and how you are because you’re not going to be the same as the generation that came before you.”
This sentiment is one Bentall, who consults with family businesses all around the world, hears often. Yet family-run enterprises have distinct advantages.
“Family businesses tend to outperform other businesses,” said Bentall, who is himself from a renowned business family. “That’s usually because they tend to focus on the long term; they’re led by vision.”
This future-focused outlook mirrors that of UBC Sauder School of Business itself.
“At UBC Sauder, we share a trait common among the most resilient family enterprises – a strong sense of shared values,” said Dean Helsley.
“Three core values underpin everything we do: rigour, respect and responsibility. We aim to instill these values in our students, who will be our province’s next generation of business leaders and who will also support and help build many family enterprises over generations.”