Jack Cowin made his first fortune on fried chicken and hamburgers, but it’s the third part of the American fast-food trifecta that’s proving somewhat problematic of late. Over the course of 2016, Cowin’s stake in Domino’s Australia (he invested in a local pizza parlour that eventually took over the brand’s franchise rights) doubled in value. But since peaking at $1.3 billion last August, the company has lost $600 million in value after it became known that struggling franchisees were underpaying staff to stay afloat.
In Cowin’s early years, no one would have pegged him to become a highly successful international business tycoon. He was a university jock who never strayed far from the pocket of southwestern Ontario in which he was raised. But four years after graduating from Western University, Cowin was in Australia, opening up that country’s first KFC to take advantage of a market underserved by fast-food restaurants. Cowin also has investments in Canada, including a stake in the company that owns Jack Astor’s. In October 2015, he was installed as chancellor at Western University; in his first address, he encouraged the graduating class to think globally. “We can’t just be a southwestern Ontario school doing business in our own backyard, as we need to develop skills and knowledge to successfully participate in a global community,” he said. That strategy worked out pretty well for him.
Cowin is also a board member at Fairfax Media, one of Australia’s and New Zealand’s largest media conglomerates. The company owns TV stations, newspapers like The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Melbourne, and magazines, and it’s in the process of merging with New Zealand Media and Entertainment.
Updated Thursday, November 9, 2017