Friday, September 22, 2000
Titans: How the New Canadian Establishment Seized Power
This is the last volume in the Canadian Establishment series. Focussing on new money and those who have it, Mr. Newman writes with sweeping command of fact and language about the decline of old family dynasties and the rise of new entrepreneurs. "The Old Establishment was so easy on itself," he writes. "Few of its leading operatives were ever punished for being stupid, incompetent or both."
In distinguishing between Old Money and New Money, Mr. Newman turns glibness into science, for example, "Old money has hairy ears, wants to do its duty and plays polo. New Money has pierced ars...snowboards, bungee jumps and couldn't care less about duty. Old Money follows the supermarket and knows when 170 gram cans of Clover Leaf flaked white tuna are on special. New Money tops lavishly and regards waiters as buddies."
Mr. Newman is at his best when dealing with mammoth personalities like media mogul Conrad Black. In a chapter entitled "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Being Black," with nods toward Michaelangelo, an earlier character with heavenly ambitions, he writes, "When Black gets bored or angry, his eyes become as blank as the gaze of a Las Vegas croupier. In fact, his eyes are the hue of grey found inside gun barrels. Six feet tall and appearing pudgier than he really is, he has the body language of a puma in heat."
The rich in Winnipeg, a group Mr. Newman calls "the lucky sperm club," are evaluated in terms of old money like the Richardsons and new money like that of the Asper family, local grandees with extensive interests in broadcasting. Alberta is the new rich, a group Mr. Newman calls "the Lexus rangers," led by ATCO Group head Ron Southern. Vancouver is the fief of brazenly rich Peter Brown, described in terms of the cars he owns. And so on.
Titans is essential to understanding Canadian business in its beginning of the millennium incarnation. And for sheer entertainment, the panorama of winners and losers in Titans is superb.