Pattison Group survival hinges on diversity

VANCOUVER — British Columbia billionaire Jim Pattison says while the automobile, forestry and media industries are being hit hard in the current recession, his group of companies is weathering the storm thanks to its diversification into other segments such as food.

VANCOUVER — British Columbia billionaire Jim Pattison says while the automobile, forestry and media industries are being hit hard in the current recession, his group of companies is weathering the storm thanks to its diversification into other segments such as food.

“I’ve certainly had worse years than this,” Pattison said Thursday following the Canfor Corp. (TSX:CFP) annual meeting, a company in which he owns about a 30 per cent stake.

“Overall we’re fine. We’re a diversified company. We have some divisions that are down and some that are up.”

Pattison wouldn’t provide further details, citing the Vancouver-based company’s private status, but said “we’re not unhappy in total.”

“We are in businesses that are very stable, generally speaking.”

The Jim Pattison Group — the third largest private company in Canada — has more than 400 business in such sectors as automotive, media, packaging, food sales and distribution, magazine distribution, and entertainment.

Pattison, 80, said this recession is different than others he has seen because it’s global.

“It has hit harder and faster and it has been deeper than anything I’ve seen.”

In the auto industry, Pattison said his company is heavily weighted in Toyota and Lexus brand vehicles.

Toyota has been hit hard by the recession, but is facing nowhere near the crisis as is North American automakers such as General Motors and Chrysler.

Pattison has one Chrysler dealership, which he bought in 2005.

The Jim Pattison Group started in 1961 with 51 employees and sales of $2.2 million. It now has annual sales of about $6.7 billion and more than 31,000 employees.

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