The last chapter of THE GREAT E.P. TAYLOR MYTH
This is the E. P. Taylor of modern Canadian folklore, reigning tycoon of a nation and master of all the hidden levers of power. He is not real and never was.
This is the E. P. Taylor who has dominated several Canadian industries and one sport, accumulated a big — but far from the biggest — Canadian fortune, and has now moved, his main residence to the Bahama Islands. Here is what he has done with money, and what money has bought for him
EDWARD PLUNKET TAYLOR, sixty-two — Canadian promoter-turnedindustrialist, horse-breeder, bringer of order and prosperity to the Ontario racing scene, ultimate refiner of the holding company, sire of the world's largest brewing corporation, chaperon among other enterprises of Canada’s largest supermarket chain and one of the world's giant farm-machine manufactories. Bahamian land developer, member of the International Set and local celebrity — came to Toronto this May for the hundred and fourth running of the Queen’s Plate Stakes. "My main residence now.” he said during a conversation that touched only briefly on horse-racing, “is in the Bahamas. I’m seeing out my business commitments in Canada, leading to my retirement.”
For one reason and another Canada hasn't an oversupply of folkfigures. This being so, it scarcely seems correct to let one like E. P. Taylor slip away from us unsaluted; it further seems a shame not to take a good look at him, while we still can, with a view to establishing what he means — for folkfigures, we arc told, always have a meaning and, indeed, if properly understood, can tell us a good deal about ourselves.
In the case of E. P. Taylor, of Toronto, Lyford Cay in the Bahama Islands — where it has often
been pointed out that there are no death duties — and London, England, "where I spend a great deal of time and have a house,” his superficial folk-meaning is pretty clear: for thirty years, more or less, Canadians have used E. P. as their resident symbol of Big Business.
When Duncan Macpherson needs A Capitalist to make a point in a newspaper cartoon he draws Taylor's round, bland face surmounted by a round, bland topper. “Who else?” says Macpherson reasonably.
When a skit writer for Toronto’s perennial revue, S p r i n g T h a w, wants a synonym for “tycoon” he unhesitatingly uses “Taylor.”
When four Honey Dew waitresses in Windsor, Ont., wanted to picket their shop, as they did in April, 1957, their placards denounced Taylor — and his horseracing hobby — though Taylor had sold his interest in the restaurant chain some three years earlier.
And when the old CCF tradeunion committee opened its Woodsworth School for Workers, back in 1953, and the inaugural speaker launched an all-out attack on “the fifty big shots who control eighty to ninety percent of Canadian business,” his specimen big shot was almost predictably Taylor.
The speaker then unabashedly conceded that Taylor just squeaked under the wire as one of the fifty. He was citing Taylor, he said rea-
sonably, “because he is known.”
Taylor's unanimous appointment as symbolic big shot seems, then and now. at least interesting if not downright arbitrary.
He is certainly nowhere near being the richest man in Canada. One published estimate places his personal fortune at around thirty-five million dollars. “Millionaire is a tricky word," warns one financial expert. “It usually means a man owes several million.” Still, insofar as the concept “personal fortune” is meaningful, Taylor can plainly be bought and sold several times over by a score of Canadians, most particularly by John David Eaton, the department-store heir.
If you’re talking about economic power and if, as many economists hold, economic power is defined by the number of boardrooms wherein a man sits. Taylor remains an also-ran. Even a cursory skimming of the Directory of Directors reveals many men with more — and better — directorships, including Jules Timmins of Montreal and Hoi linger Mines and J. S. D. Tory, barrister, of Toronto.
If you’re talking about overt economic feudalism, K. (’. Irving, the baron of New Brunswick, is a far better candidate than Taylor.
If you go poking around the Bay Street financial houses asking about behind-the-scenes influence, you're apt to be told that, if there are Ten Top Men in Canada, Taylor isn't one of them. (The name of one Norman Urquhart of Toronto, a man with mining interests, did come up. in case you're interested.) The only superlative anyone in these precincts will pin on Taylor is that he commands “more of the influence of wealth than any man in Canada,” whatever that means.
As for the heartlessness the typical bloated capitalist is supposed to exhibit towards widow's, orphans and competitors — the kind, say, that provoked the attempted shooting of the late Sir Herbert Holt by an investment dealer he had bankrupted — Taylor notably does not qualify. He doesn't even fire people: just asks for their resignations, usually through a third party. A jaded business editor said recently, “I haven't found anyone who is a success in the business community who isn’t prepared to be ruthless. But I must say E. P. Taylor is better than most. He has a bigger heart ...”
This is not to say that E. P. Taylor is not rich, single-minded and powerful: total. sales of the companies he and his associates control last year came to almost tw'o billion dollars. But what did he do — if he is not demonstrably the richest, most powerful, despotic, sinister, or ruthless businessman in Canada — to make it as a folkfigure? That is the first puzzle about E. P.
There is a second puzzle. Most folk-figures collect around themselves a lively mythology of anecdote, quotation and imputed characteristic. Thus everybody knows
W. H. Vanderbilt was the type of man w ho said “The public be damned!” Everybody recognizes that if Marilyn Monroe didn’t say, “I like to feel blonde all over,” she might have. And they understand that any good drinking story can satisfactorily be attributed to Sir John A. Macdonald.
But there is simply no E. P. Taylor legend. The closest thing to an anecdote in the public domain is the account of his being torpedoed in the Atlantic with the Rt. Hon. C. D. Howe, on a government mission to England during World War II, and spending nine hours in a lifeboat without his pants. This has been retailed by almost every Taylor historian and is therefore quite widely known, but it hasn’t invested Taylor with much of a public personality.
Not only is his image unshaded; it is almost faceless. Taylor is easily recognizable to most Canadians as he appears in countless newspaper photographs — which is to say in the same garb he wears on the cover of this magazine. The points of recognition are not his features but the silk hat, the carnation, the embonpoint. These items, plus a horse's head in the background, are what identify The Capitalist as Taylor in a Duncan Macpherson cartoon. In a topper, at the track, Taylor has been booed by the crowd as he walked to the winner’s circle to collect a purse.
But without the racetrack rigout he is simply any bull-like, aging six-footer with a rich man's face and a rich man’s Glen-check double-breasted suit, and might easily pass unnoticed in the street.
There is literally nothing personal in what the public thinks or says about him. Aside from horse racing, the rich man’s hobby, he is assigned no tastes, crotchets or secret vices. He is simply the power and pleasure of money in a top hat: “I hear E. P. Taylor’s going to be the next governor-general’’ . . . “That anonymous four-and-a-half million dollar gift to the Canada Council in February for scientific research; they say it’s E. P. Taylor”
. . . “Whattaya bet he’ll be Sir E. P. inside two years?” . . . “Is it true E. P.’s buying the Globe and Mail for his reporter son Charles ... ?”
To complete the paradoxes of symbol, stereotype and man no unanimity of opinion exists among those people who actually know him. “There’s no doubt that there’s a basic resentment of him in the business community,” says one financial expert. “The hired hands — the company presidents — envy him. And most of the really important men inherited their basic wealth and consider him an upstart.”
On the other hand, his employees and close associates, almost to a man, like him wholeheartedly and consider him grossly misunderstood. “I'd like to see somebody write the real story of Eddie Taylor,” says one former colleague.
continued on page 33
E. P. Taylor's priate horse race
UNTIL. 1949, E. P. Taylor did most of his racing at U. S. tracks, coming to Canada only for such major events as the Queen’s Plate. That year, he won the Plate with a colt named Epic, and that winter he announced he would move the centre of his attention to Canada. Since then, the Queen’s Plate, North America’s oldest continuously run horse race, has been almost his personal property. Horses he owned (in the black and white pictures here) have won seven times, and horses he bred (in the coppercolored pictures) have won another four. As well, the bloodlines of his stable, with sires like Chop Chop (who has four winners among these
eleven), have helped to move Canadian thoroughbred racing from the small-time to very near the major leagues. Taylor's greatest single achievement as a breeder so far has been Victoria Park, a son of Chop Chop. An easy winner of the I960 Plate, Victoria Park went on to run with, and sometimes beat, the best three-year-olds in the world. He was injured and retired before the peak of his three - year - old season, but is now' standing as the highest-priced stud in Canada. When Victoria Park’s offspring get to the Queen’s Plate eligibility lists, Taylor’s domination of Canada’s greatest horse race is not likely to diminish.
continued from page 10
In dealing with his employees he is at once pleasant and curt
"I'd like to read an article that said Eddie is the country’s most publicspirited businessman. But nobody wants to hear that ..."
And then there is the downright ambivalence of another ex-colleague. “E. P. Taylor appalls me,” he said recently. for openers, but added in a moment. “Personally I like him very much."
For these and other reasons it is more than normally hard for an outsider to make sense of Taylor. The visible details and circumstances that sometimes reveal character are, in his case, noncommittal. This is one reason for his being a noncommittal folk-figure. He chuckles often, rather perfunctorily, grins genially but seldom laughs full out; his laugh has a curiously toothless look. He always sports a carnation in his buttonhole — "it makes me feel good,” he says — and used to wear pansies before he could afford carnations. He has been seen in downtown Toronto on a raw spring day in a green chauffeur-driven convertible Thunderbird with the top down. Put his house. Windfields, in the Bayview district of Toronto, is a conservative stone villa decorated pleasantly in a style that might be called exclusive-lady's club, with pastel Oriental rugs, chintzes, lounge chairs, glass-topped tables, masses of fresh flowers, and a lobe - shaped swimming pool down past the terrace. When his home in Lyford Cay was being built Taylor told his wife he'd like the same sort of thing down there.
His wife, the former Winifred Duguid of Ottawa, is an ash-blonde with a vivid pointed face and unaffected warmth of manner. He has two married daughters and a son, Charles, who is a newspaper reporter. Taylor chides his wife that her albums of colored snapshots are an extravagance because the color fades in a year or two.
He smokes Picobac tobacco, a workingman's brand, in Dunhill pipes, and has been smoking since he was twelve. He drinks every ordinary drink, including beer, except vodka, which he detests. He says he has no politics. He says he travels an average of four thousand miles a week, preferably by jet, loves travel and keeps track of his whereabouts in a pocket diary — "I may need to know where I vc been on a particular day,” he explains. Besides travel, his work consists of digesting piles of reports, balance sheets and data; thinking; making decisions: and talking. “I'm on the phone twenty or thirty times a day. Its very tiring,” he says. He is bored by any encounter that lasts over an hour.
His manner with people is smooth, affable — and utterly, unvaryingly appropriate. With women he is unobtrusively courtly, pulling out chairs and ottering non-filter cigarettes from a gold case.
At the racetrack, among the sporting fraternity, he is perceptibly democratic. "He talks like one of the
gang." says Joe Perlove, a racing reporter for the Toronto Star.
In dealings with his employees he is pleasant, business-like and curt. When he is angry his face flushes and his lips set, but this is a rare occurrence. He has almost total recall of the names of employees' wives and offspring and their ailments, and does things like making Christmas calls, and visiting hospitals. Indeed, most of the anecdotes his associates proffer about Taylor tend to stress cither his
prodigious memory — for names, figures, equine bloodlines etc. —r or his small thoughtful gestures. This spring he dispatched some carnation cuttings to a garden enthusiast who had introduced himself at the Fort Erie racetrack and had admired Taylor's boutonniere. He has created a sinecure for an aging employee on several occasions. "A thing 1 talk about quite frequently and openly is the importance of the ability to get along with people — not only with
people above and on your level but with people beneath you,” Taylor says.
It is hard to avoid the feeling that he has taught himself to bring the same efficiency to getting along with people as he does to a board meeting or a balance sheet. Yet the impression he gives is not that of a man who is cynically using people but of a man who has found this the smoothest way of conserving his energy and anger and emotional engagement for something else. J. K. Thomas, an in-
dustrial psychologist who once worked for Taylor on an abortive publishing venture, says now, "I think to him people — and governments — are things that get in your way. He is, in his way, an artist and like an artist he just wants to be left alone to do what he wants to do.”
Taylor, who once said, "I don't understand introverts,” is notably not an introvert. Nevertheless there is an echo of Thomas’ judgment in several statements he has made about himself.
For example he said recently, "there's a very big segment of the public who could never understand what motivates me. People don't understand the principal motivation is not money.” He has also said, "I do something that is constructive. There are people who like to paint or garden.
I like to create things.” And in commenting on his personal staff he said, revealingly, "I have to have a number of people around to protect me . . . so I can do the things I have to do.” If, as Taylor believes, he is publicly misunderstood — understood, that is, as a crude tycoon stereotype, a faceless folk-figure — the cause maybe as simple as that there is a body of folklore about the artist in paint, the artist in higher mathematics, even the man with a vocation for motor mechanics. But there is no folklore about the artist in high finance, or the master-builder of the industrial complex. Indeed the folklore of business starts with the biographies of ruthless early entrepreneurs, continues with tracts about international monetary plots and profiteers and ends with sociological treatises on the organization man and the battle for the executive suite. If the public understands Taylor in these terms rather than in his own it is partly because the effect of the b u s i n e s s artist strangely resembles that of the tycoon: the accumulation of money, the acquisition of pow'er and the trend toward monopoly; it may also be partly because of the extraordinary difficulty, lor the layman, of digging the aesthetics of high finance.
But if Taylor is to be considered as an artist in business, his masterworks have to be examined.
The first one can perhaps be called — adopting the kind of label that is nowadays modish for abstract art — Exercise in Rationalizing an Industry. Taylor ( w'hose younger brother Frederick is a painter in Montreal ) was born into an Ottawa banker's family, attended private and public school in Ottawa, wqts graduated in engineering from McGill and entered an investment firm back in Ottawa having already assumed a directorship in a small family holding, Brading Breweries Ltd. At the time there were thirty-six breweries in Ontario bottling beer under more than a hundred and fifty labels. Tavern sales were prohibited in the province and only six of the breweries w'ere operating in the black. Taylor saw' the chance to pick up his competitors cheaply — mostly in exchange for shares in a new holdall brewing firm, later named Canadian Breweries—with all the eventual benefits of reduction of plants to an efficient number, the streamlining of sales and distribution, the paring down of brands and the consequent economies in advertising. By the early
1950's Taylor had acquired twentythree breweries, closed twelve of them and reduced the number of brands to nine.
It is certainly possible to see a logical beauty and a plastic shapeliness in this. Unfortunately the public in general — and temperance groups in particular — saw only a beer barony. During the war Taylor went to Ottawa as a dollar-a-year man and. among other things, attacked Mackenzie King for a radio speech about curtailing beer drinking and beer advertising. calling it "un-British and therefore undemocratic." The United Church of Canada's board of evangelism and social service eventually demanded his resignation from all official government wartime duties, and from then on mad° it their duty regularly to attack him.
A second Taylor creation worth examination is Argus Corp. — A Study in Leverage. Argus, formed toward the end of the war and dominated by Taylor, W. Eric Phillips. John A. McDougald and, until his departure for politics, M. Wallace McCutcheon, is a holding company, rather like a public investment club but with a difference. The partners hold enough shares to control Argus. Argus in turn holds enough shares in six major companies and one minor company to control their policy and to command one or more seats on their boards of directors. The seven companies in the Argus group in turn have effective control of many other companies.
As a financial design this. too. has a sort of centripetal elegance. Unfortunately it shortly attracted the attention of groups like the CCF, who forthwith attacked Argus as a wicked system of interlocking directorates and Taylor as one of "the fifty big shots" who owned Canada. At around the same time Canadian Breweries came under investigation by the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission as an alleged combine. Eventually a court action was brought under the Combines Act and though the defendants, Canadian Breweries and E. P. Taylor, were found not guilty, the w'hole business had taken seven years in all and the accompanying publicity and comment left "Taylor" and "monopolist” linked in the public mind.
In Canada, the country of blue laws, temperance leagues, the Lord’s Day Alliance and Dr. Mutchmor, traffic in beer was enough by itself to single Taylor out as sinister. If that hadn't been enough, his name was by now firmly associated with the turf — for which in the puritan lexicon, read Gambling! Finally, the imputation of monopoly, in a country with a particularly militant socialist movement gaining some ground at the time, did the rest. It is public attacks on him as naughty and pernicious, rather than considerations of economic supremacy. that seem to have made Taylor the big, bad business folk-figure.
From his beer and Argus phases, Taylor moved to still more sophisticated works. They might be called Experiments in Three-Dimensional Dynamics and they involve the complex assembly by apparently unrelated enterprises into corporate organisms. One example is Don Mills, the satellite city to the northeast of Toronto. A model development, it consists, of course, of
land, houses of brick and lumber, and shopping centres containing among other outlets. Dominion Stores, stocked with shopping bags. Javex. Flusho and Fleecy, and Brewers' Retail Stores. One way and another, including leverage, Taylor has some interest in real estate, bricks, lumber, shopping centres. Dominion Stores, shopping bags. Javex. Flusho and Fleecy. And beer.
A more intimate and perhaps more stylish example sprang from Taylor's
only major hobby: horses. The units in his organism are:
• Taylor's own racing stables. Windfields Farm, which has supplied him with, among other satisfactions, seven Queen's Plate winners (as this went to press he wasn't considered to have much of a chance in the 1963 Plate):
• His National Stud Farm, where he is breeding scientifically for stock competitive anywhere in the thoroughbred racing world. Each September he holds a private sale of yearlings, sell-
ing a designated number and keeping the leavings. Horses bred by him have won ten of the last thirteen Queen's Plate races;
• The Jockey C lub Ltd., of which he is president. Through the Jockey Club seven third-rate Ontario tracks have been rationalized into two first-rate ones, plus a new supertrack. New Woodbine, plus a new harness-racing track near Guelph.
• The betting public. Last year ninety-one million dollars were wagered
at the first three tracks above.
It works approximately like this. The better the track the bigger the crowd and the brisker the betting. The brisker the betting the bigger the purses. The bigger the purses the better for Taylor’s racing stable. The richer the racing stable the better for the stud farm. The better for the stud farm the more numerous the Taylorbred winners and the higher the stud fees. lit seep
So far the results have been all good. The tracks are models of cleanliness, comfort, smartness and even luxury. They are also profitable and the purses are therefore up. Horsemen and gamblers alike are delighted.
Yet a curiously revealing episode took place at the end of May. The winter-book favorite to win the Plate had been Jet Traffic, a three-year-old owned by Russell Firestone Jr., of Dallas, Tex. On May 23 the horse was ruled ineligible by the Jockey Club on a technicality having to do with entry procedure. I bis promoted to favorite a Taylor-bred horse, Royal Maple, now owned by I.-Fouis Lévesque of Montreal.
A perceptible flurry ol dismay and distaste instantly shook the Ontario racing fraternity. The suggestion went around that Taylor himself had initiated the close scrutiny of Jet Traffic’s nomination, or at the least that over-anxious Taylor hirelings had thought to please him by increasing the chances for a Taylor-bred horse to win. (The more numerous the Taylor-bred winners the higher the stud fee, and so on. Remember?) The sports editor of the Globe and Mail wrote an editorial calling on Taylor to reinstate Jet Traffic, claiming that otherwise “sportsmanship will have a sadder meaning in the lexicon of the game." He overlooked the near-certainty that if Jet Traffic were reinstated and won. owners of other Plate entries would sue the Jockey Club.
Taylor angrily made this clear and added, "It’s a fiasco. Now the poor person who wins the Plate is going to get the raspberry.”
What is significant in all this is that Taylor has been unreservedly popular with the racing fraternity, among other reasons for what he has done for racing in Canada. Yet in the Jet Traffic affair some residual instinct of distrust of the tycoon overcame them, rightly or wrongly. It is the persistence of the visceral public suspicion of big business, its ethics and its motives, that Taylor as folk-figure makes clear.
The new artistic models in free enterprise arc. after all, getting complex indeed and. even if you know a man is not a stereotyped beer baron or a monopolist, it’s hard to judge what he’s up to if you don’t quite grasp his vision. All you can really do is forget about motives and try to assess the results.
In F. P. Taylor’s case, you are left with something like the following:
• Taylor enterprises tend to flourish and certainly no social good is done bv any firm that is tottering:
• Some economists at least have advanced the theory that in Canada oligopoly—the sharing of a field by two or three giant competitors, as Canadian Breweries. Labatt’s and Molson’s share beer -— is the natural and
necessary order for certain industries:
• Labor relations and employee benefits in Taylor-controlled enterprises have been exemplary all along:
• Taylor has. says an associate, created more jobs for Canadians than anyone outside the government: he has kept in Canadian hands some industries that otherwise might have been unable to resist U. K. or U. S. bills for control; and he has even reversed a much deplored trend by moving Canadian firms into world
markets, notably in beer and farm machinery;
• Taylor personally has put in more time fund-raising for hospitals, universities, charities, service organizations and cultural projects than anyone else in sight.
All Taylor himself, in a valedictory mood, will say is “Sometimes 1 like myself and sometimes I don’t."
He will not be the next governorgeneral — "That’s something I won't do for the Queen,” he says. (He didn't
give the money to the Canada Council, by the way.)
A knighthood? “No Canadian can receive an honor that takes a title without the permission of the government,” he counters smoothly. “Yes. there are one or two who have, but only after they’ve left the country. 1 don’t think I’d be interested, though. It just isn’t done.”
Besides, he keeps insisting, all he’s ever wanted out of life is to be constructive. ★