Canada’s billionaire Arthur Irving, one of the richest men in the country, passes away at 93

Arthur L. Irving, one of Canada’s wealthiest individuals and the son of Canadian industrialist K.C. Irving, has died at the age of 93 after a life spent expanding the company his father founded. Irving Oil announced his passing in a statement, saying he died Monday surrounded by his wife, Sandra, and daughter, Sarah. Forbes Magazine listed Arthur Irving as being among the top 10 richest Canadians in 2023. At the time of his death, he had an estimated net worth of US$6.4 billion, which includes a refinery in Canada that is the largest, along with the Whitegate refinery in Ireland. Born in 1930, Irving attended Acadia University before leaving to join Irving Oil in 1951, where he worked with his father and his two brothers. “I had the choice to go on at Acadia or learn about business from the best teacher available anywhere — my father,” he told author Donald Savoie in his 2020 book about Irving Oil. “I went with the best teacher.” He became president of the company in 1972 and was chairman emeritus when he died. His death comes as the company’s Saint John refinery is undergoing a “strategic review” to determine its future, as climate change is prompting a shift away from fossil fuels in some nations. While his biographers have credited Irving with success in expanding the company, he also had a life marked by family difficulties, including a contentious 1980 divorce with his first wife and — more recently — his estrangement from his eldest son. In his book, “Irving vs. Irving,” published in 2014, journalist Jacques Poitras described a poignant scene from August 2013, when Irving stood at a Saint John news conference announcing that his company was officially launching a bid — which ultimately didn’t succeed — to build a pipeline to carry crude oil from Alberta to the family’s refinery. Poitras noted that Kenneth, “his son and heir,” was notably absent after a falling out led to his departure from the company in 2010. “Arthur, in his eighties, was surrounded by admirers, yet alone. His refinery loomed in the background … but his family was torn asunder,” Poitras wrote. In the 1980s and ’90s, Arthur Irving’s business life and interests were tightly tied to his two brothers, J.K. and Jack, as they took primary responsibility for different segments of the business empire their father had created. The trucking firms ran on the companies’ refined gasoline, the forestry and shipping interests used the Irvings’ construction subsidiaries, and a chain of newspapers purchased the newsprint from a nearby factory. In late 2009, the three Irving brothers separated their business interests, with Arthur assuming control of the energy business. In its statement, the company described Irving as “a steadfast champion of Atlantic Canada and its people” and one of a kind. “In this immense loss, we know there will never be another like him,” it said.