Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ron Southern, Alberta "Giant" in Equestrian and Business, Dead at 85

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ron Southern, Alberta "Giant" in Equestrian and Business, Dead at 85

Article excerpt

Alberta businessman Ron Southern dead at 85


CALGARY - Alberta business magnate and Spruce Meadows co-founder Ron Southern has died at age 85.

The Calgary equestrian facility and the companies he built announced Southern's death Thursday.

Southern and his father S.D. started the Alberta Trailer Company in 1947 with 15 trailers. It became the ATCO Group (TSX:ACO.X), a Calgary-based conglomerate with interests ranging from construction trailers to pipelines to natural gas distribution.

ATCO now has operations in more than 100 countries, 8,000 employees and $19 billion in assets. Ron Southern served as the company's president for 48 years.

Southern was also the founder and controlling shareholder of Akita Drilling (TSX:ATK.A). Forbes pegged Southern's net worth at $1.55 billion last year.

Southern and his wife Margaret purchased Copithorne Ranch south of Calgary with a vision of establishing an equestrian facility. Spruce Meadows opened its doors in 1975 and hosted its first tournament the following year.

It has become a fixture for the world's best riders and horses with 300 events held there annually.

Spruce Meadows marked its 40th anniversary in 2015. The equestrian organization says riders representing 57 countries have earned $110 million in prize money in front of almost 10 million visitors since the park opened.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed his condolences on Twitter saying he was "deeply saddened" and called Southern "a great Calgarian."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said Southern was a "great Alberta business leader and community giant."

"Ron dreamed big, achieved so much, and all Alberta benefited," Notley said in a statement. "Ron's many endeavours created Alberta jobs, contributed to our pride and made Alberta a show-jumping destination. He will be sorely missed."

Equestrian's world governing body, the FEI, dubbed Spruce Meadows the world's top show jumping venue multiple times.

"Beyond his career as a prominent businessman, Ron was a true community builder," Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said in a statement.

"It is because of Ron's vision for Spruce Meadows more than 40 years ago that we as Calgarians are lucky enough to enjoy this iconic venue. …

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