Somebody forgot to tell the Richardsons about the recession.
Winnipeg's first family of business was one of the movers and shakers on Canadian Business magazine's annual Rich 100 list, coming in 15th place with a net worth of $2.72 billion. That's up 16 per cent from a year ago, when they ranked 19th with a net worth of $2.34 billion.
Steve Maich, editor at Canadian Business, said the Richardsons' primary investments in oil and gas, agriculture, real estate and financial services are in sectors "where you want to be."
"Right there, you are very much leveraged to the overall health of the market and the overall health of the market has surged, particularly in the last half of the year," he said.
Two other people with strong Manitoba connections also made the grade -- Peter Nygard, the Finnish-born fashionista and former Winnipegger now living in the Bahamas and Randy Moffat, former CEO and majority shareholder of Moffat Communications. Nygard saw his net worth climb 21 per cent to $817 million, up from $676 million a year ago, good for 70th place. Moffat, who spends most of his time focusing on philanthropic endeavours after selling the company to Shaw Communications in 2001, came in 90th with a net worth of $563 million, down from 82nd place and $598 million a year ago.
For the second consecutive year, the Asper family failed to crack the Rich 100 lineup, which ended with Montreal's Molson family and their $486-million net worth due to their beer empire. Just six years ago, they were neck-and-neck with the Richardsons with a net worth of $1.13 billion.
"The latest estimates on the Asper family put them far below (the top 100). The vast majority of the family's fortune was tied up in Canwest (Global Communications') equity, which is practically worthless. They have other assets and there's still lots of money in the family. They're millionaires but nowhere close to the top 100," he said.
"The net worth of the Reichmanns and the Eatons plunged (in previous lists) but whether they saw their net worth plunge as far and as fast as the Aspers have, I'd be surprised." Despite the recession that gripped most of the country this year, Canada's rich, for the most part, got richer. The total net worth of the Rich 100 rose from $165.1 billion to $172.7 billion. Maich said many people would find such figures "galling."
"It's counter-intuitive. For most of us, 2009 was a pretty tough year. We saw a lot of job losses and industries in crisis. Your average Canadian spent the year feeling quite a bit of anxiety," he said.
Maich credited the rapid turnaround in the stock market and the commodity market, particularly during the second half of the year, for pumping up the Rich 100's fortunes.
Perennial front-runner, Toronto's Thomson family, maintained its dominant position on the list with net worth of $21.99 billion -- a 19 per cent jump from a year ago.
The Thomsons' net worth is more than triple that of J.K., Arthur and Jack Irving, the men behind Irving Oil Ltd., a New Brunswick-based energy company serving Atlantic Canada and the northeastern U.S., which rang in at $7.28 billion.
Canadian Business's 11th Rich 100 list will hit newsstands today.
The magazine came to its rankings by sending researchers to scour proxy circulars, insider trading reports and other sources.