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Auto-parts CEO to get local honour

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A woman who has steered Canada's second-largest auto parts manufacturer through some of the most challenging times in the industry's history will be feted in Winnipeg in May.

Linda Hasenfratz, CEO of Guelph-based Linamar Corp., has been selected as the recipient of the 2014 IDEA (International Distinguished Entrepreneur Award).

She was named company CEO in August 2002, following three years as president. Since she moved into a leadership role, the company's sales have grown to $3.2 billion from $800 million.

'She's widely recognized as one of the top female CEOs in North America. Since she took over, she has tripled the size of the company' -- Arni Thorsteinson on Linda Hasenfratz

That includes several years following the global economic downturn in 2008 when automobile manufacturers required government bailouts just to survive.

Even though she's the daughter of the founder, Frank Hasenfratz, she wasn't parachuted into the company's upper echelons. She started out on the shop floor as a machine operator before working her way up to general manager of a pair of its manufacturing divisions.

Arni Thorsteinson, chairman of the IDEA committee and president of Shelter Canadian Properties Ltd. in Winnipeg, said Hasenfratz and Linamar are the new stars of Canada's high-tech sector.

"She's widely recognized as one of the top female CEOs in North America. Since she took over, she has tripled the size of the company. It's spectacular growth," he said.

Hasenfratz also has a history of giving back to her community. She is currently the vice-chairwoman on the board of governors of the Royal Ontario Museum and she also serves on the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Women on Boards Advisory Council.

Hasenfratz isn't as high-profile as previous IDEA winners, such as Starbucks' Howard Schultz, but that's largely because Linamar's customers are other companies, not consumers.

The award will be presented at a gala dinner at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg on May 26. The black-tie affair is easily one of the highlights of the business calendar every year.

Hasenfratz is the latest in a long line of world-renowned entrepreneurs to win the IDEA. Some of them include Chip Wilson (Lululemon), Richard Branson (Virgin), Dame Anita Roddick (the Body Shop), Izzy Asper (Canwest Global), Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman (Onex Corp. and Indigo Books and Music), and Albert Cohen (Gendis).

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 23, 2014 B7

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