Class of 1986
Maxwell Bell was born in 1912, graduating with a McGill University Commerce degree in 1932. He would eventually become accomplished as not only a businessman and entrepreneur, but also as an oilman, newspaper publisher, sportsman and philanthropist.
Max was known for his keen business sense, and frequently supported innovative, unproven, and risky ventures. Obtaining a contract to provide railway ties to the Canadian Pacific Railway, Bell invested the profits in a dormant Turner Valley oil company. This investment and others paid off during the 1947 Alberta oil boom.
He inherited his father’s newspaper, the Calgary Albertan, as well as its half-million-dollar debt, when he was only 23 years of age. Within two years he was able to pay off his father’s debts, and within three he was turning a profit once more.
By the mid-1950s, Max had acquired controlling interest in several western newspapers. He formed a partnership with Victor Sifton and Richard S. Malone of the Winnipeg Free Press, which resulted in one of Canada’s largest newspaper chain, Federated Paper Publications. In 1961, Bell was made Chairman of this organization, which included Toronto’s Globe & Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and the Ottawa Journal, among others.
In addition to newspapers and oil, Max served as a Director of the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Bank of Nova Scotia, Northern Electric, and many other major Canadian corporations. Though a successful man, Max remained largely indifferent to the trappings of wealth, often quoted as saying: “The only time money is really important is when a person hasn’t any.”
Bell was also recognized internationally as a sportsman, playing both football and hockey. His passion for race horses prompted his investments in the breeding of thoroughbreds, and his stables, Golden West Farms, won the coveted Queen’s Plate as well as The Irish Derby. Many of his friends shared his interest in racing, including Bing Crosby and legendary jockey, Johnny Longden. Bell was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1977.
A kind supporter of public and private causes, Max served on the Fitness and Amateur Sport Council, and was Hockey Canada’s first Chairman. Establishing the Max Bell Foundation in 1972, the year of his death, the fields of health, fitness, and veterinary medicine continue to benefit from his generosity.
Upon his death, former Prime Minister of Canada, the Rt. Honourable Lester Pearson, had this to say about Max Bell: “He was above all things a builder, and an imaginative and successful one, with a vision that went far beyond his own private interest and encompassed many good causes which he felt would help Canada. He will be greatly missed.”