Andrew Allentuck

Friday, March 9, 2001

No Guts, No Glory: How Canada's Greatest CEOs Built Their Empires
By David Olive
McGraw Hill Ryerson, 326 pages

Veteran business writer David Olive has assembled portraits of eight Canadian businesses in the form of what could be called operational biographies of their managers. His subjects are the grocery and baking magnates of the Weston empire, discount airline pioneer Max Ward, hotelier Izzy Sharp, visionary contractor Paul Reichmann, investment banker Andrew Sarlos, auto parts manufacturer Frank Stronach, Bombardier CEO Laurent Beaudoin, and Nortel Networks chiefs Robert Scrivener and John Roth. Each portrait is rich in detail, well crafted in prose and instructive in what it reveals.

Take the chapter on the Magna car parts empire. Writes Olive, "there was no order or stateliness to Frank Stronach. He was a cocksure visionary who had bullied his lieutenants into submitting to the countless doubtful schemes from which his $13.6 billion enterprise had emerged. The founder of Canada's biggest auto parts firm, sixth largest in the world, was also a quixotic dabbler in thoroughbred racing, nightclubs, publishing European theme parks and soccer teams. He was given to unintentional self-parody, having once sought a seat in Parliament on a platform of balancing the national accounts even as the over leveraged Magna was hurtling toward near-insolvency."

Deeply research, written with verve and much forethought and planning, No Guts, No Glory is superb, probably the best book of business history this year. For a gift or for many evenings of provocative reading, one can hardly do better than to get a copy.