WINNIPEG - He's a British baron, Canada's richest person, a patron of the arts and a reluctant public speaker ó and he's now part owner of Winnipeg's new NHL franchise.
David Thomson, the 53-year-old Toronto resident and chairman of media giant Thomson Reuters, will along with Mark Chipman share an equal stake in whatever the Atlanta Thrashers will be called when they take to the ice in Manitoba this fall.
"I think the Jets is a fine name. It's obviously something we're going to have to be thinking long and hard about, and swiftly. That's something for Mark and his team," Thomson said during an extremely rare interview, which he granted to QMI Agency Tuesday.
Thomson, whose estimated $23 billion fortune makes him Canada's richest person and puts him in the top 20 worldwide, said investing in the hockey team was about more than money.
"The game matters to me," he said. "When you do things for the right reasons, everything else seems to flow, you know. If you put something like economics first, chances are you're going to go amiss."
Thomson said he and Chipman "feel very, very, very strongly about one another's values" and he's happy to head into this venture with a partner like that.
"He and his people have done some extraordinary things with the MTS Centre and the Manitoba Moose, and it just made sense," Thomson said. "Who would have imagined a confluence of circumstance and suddenly there's an opportunity, and the opportunity makes sense? It really makes sense. It's the right thing to do."
Thomson, who rarely speaks publicly and has only ever granted a handful of media interviews in his life, was coy when asked whether he would be more than a silent financial backer with the new team.
"Mark (Chipman) leads the organization, and I'm just delighted to play a part," Thomson said, declining to be more specific about what that part may be. "I'll leave that up to you to imagine. I'm a curious person, and I'll leave it at that."
Thomson, the third Baron Thomson of Fleet in the U.K.'s peerage system, is the son of Ken Thomson and grandson of Roy Thomson, who founded the company corporation.
David Thomson, who once worked at The Bay in Winnipeg, worked his way up the business ranks and later became president of the Zellers retail chain.
Osmington Inc., a real estate firm founded by David Thomson, is half-owner of True North, along with Chipman's Megill-Stephenson Co. The partners, operating together as True North, will own the new NHL team, just as they already jointly own the Manitoba Moose.