Honouring Jim Pattison, 2020 Recipient of the Gustavson School of Business Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award

March 9, 2021, Victoria, BC –  When someone refers to a “distinguished Canadian entrepreneur,” one name immediately comes to mind: Jim Pattison. Over the course of an astonishing career, he has built a business empire employing 50,000 people and generating over $10 billion in annual sales, and one that is based on quality, integrity and commitment.

When the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria created its Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award (DEYA) in 2004, the idea was simple: to recognize exceptional, innovative, values-driven leaders. These entrepreneurs are chosen to inspire current and future business leaders – including students in the business school – and show how diverse, challenging and rewarding a business career can be.

Going strong 17 years later, these fundamentals have held true. DEYA is an institution in BC’s business community. A generation of students and professionals have been inspired, entertained and connected through the business school’s celebration of exceptional and courageous entrepreneurs.

Which leads back to Pattison, the business school’s 2020 DEYA recipient.

“Jim has never been a follower in business,” says Carole Taylor, OC, OBC, former BC legislator and a close friend of Pattison. “He is a leader. The enormous success of Jim Pattison Group is due to his leadership and his belief that individual companies within the group must be independent under strong cultural direction from the top: respect and integrity. How else do you hold together a conglomerate with such diverse holdings as a company that collects shrunken heads [Ripley’s Believe It or Not!], a fishing company in Alaska, radio stations and a coal port, as well as his businesses in cars and magazine distribution? This is the definition of a successful entrepreneur, in capital letters.”

In anticipation of honouring such a keystone of BC’s business world, DEYA 2020 promised to be truly special. While a black-tie gala bringing together more than 600 people to celebrate Pattison became impossible as the events of 2020 unfolded, recognizing his tremendous accomplishments remained a priority.

“Mr. Pattison has arguably contributed more to BC’s and Canada’s economy than any other modern business person,” says Peter Gustavson, chair of the DEYA committee. “In naming him our 2020 DEYA recipient, we recognize him for his unparalleled achievements as a lifelong entrepreneur. While circumstances prevent us from celebrating these achievements as we intended, Mr. Pattison’s business leadership is recognized and honoured by the DEYA committee and across the business school. Although 2020 was the year dedicated to recognizing Mr. Pattison, we salute him for embodying the things DEYA stands for, over every year of his long career.”

DEYA not only recognizes innovation and entrepreneurship, however. The award – and the business school as a whole – acknowledges that thriving businesses are embedded in thriving communities, and that business leaders have a vital role to play in this ecosystem.

“Jimmy has actively supported the community in countless ways,” says Taylor. “Not just with his philanthropic gifts to so many of our hospitals and institutions, but with his invaluable time. His taking over the leadership of Expo 86 at a critical time and bringing it home so successfully, stands as a model of volunteerism.”

We all benefit from the vision and contributions of great leaders who strive to improve our world.

“The Gustavson School of Business is committed to fostering an educational environment in which today’s students learn what it takes to become the inspirational leaders of tomorrow. Today, more than ever, we need responsible leaders able to conceive and create a better world,” says the school’s dean, Saul Klein. “This requires dedication, vision and entrepreneurial thinking – all of which Jim Pattison exemplifies in truly unprecedented ways – and we are proud to follow in his footsteps.”

Full biography of Jim Pattison and list of previous DEYA award recipients

Contact: Sasha Milam (Gustavson Communications),