The Irvings had their hopes dashed in October when plans were scrapped for the $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline, which would carry over a million barrels of oil from Alberta to Saint John, N.B. every day, some of which would be processed at Irving Oil’s refinery. “This is a sad day for Canada,” president Ian Whitcomb said following the announcement. After five years of lobbying, the company is understandably disappointed. That’s not to say the year’s been all bad. They’re expanding their U.S. operations with a new US $400 million paper product facility in Macon, Georgia, and they managed to dodge the 20% softwood lumber tariff other lumber companies are subject to, negotiating a 3% tariff with the U.S., instead.
Indeed, the company has always had a resourceful streak. Kenneth C. Irving built an old-fashioned vertically integrated conglomerate through timely acquisitions, and his sons expanded it further. The network of board seats and purchasing contracts has unravelled in recent years, and each branch of the family now controls a distinct line of business. A fourth generation of this Atlantic Canadian clan is now firmly in charge. Jim Irving runs the forestry business and the shipbuilding arm, which will construct the Canadian Navy’s new Arctic offshore patrol boats, while Sarah Irving has just been installed on the executive team of Irving Oil, which is undertaking a $200-million maintenance project at its Saint John refinery.
One of Canada’s most dynastic companies, the Irving group got its start back in the 1920s, when K.C. opened a small service station in Bouctouche, N.B. Nearly 100 years on, the family controls more than 250 enterprises scattered across Canada and the northeastern United States. Together, the companies, spanning oil and gas, shipping and transportation, retail and media sectors, are worth an estimated $10 billion.
Updated Thursday, November 9, 2017