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The Lord Thomson of Fleet
Born September 1, 1923(1923-09-01)
North Bay, Ontario, Canada
Died June 12, 2006 (aged 82)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Occupation Chairman, Woodbridge Co. Ltd[1]
Net worth $17.9 billion USD (Mar. 2006)[2]
Spouse(s) Nora Marilyn Lavis Thomson

Kenneth Thomson, 2nd Baron Thomson of Fleet (September 1, 1923 – June 12, 2006), in Canada known as Ken Thomson, was a Canadian businessman and art collector who, at the time of his death, was the richest person in Canada, and the ninth richest person in the world, according to, with assets of approximately US $17.9 billion.


Early life and career

Kenneth Thomson was born on September 1, 1923 in North Bay, Ontario. He was the son of the late Roy Thomson. The family moved from the United Kingdom to Canada when Roy Thomson was young. The elder Thomson was the founder of the Thomson Corporation, a forerunner of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Corporation was formerly best known as a newspaper company whose properties included The Times, but has since Roy's death divested almost all its traditional newspaper assets in favour of electronic information services and products, save The Globe and Mail daily.

Kenneth Thomson was educated at Upper Canada College in Toronto and at St. John's College of Cambridge University in the UK (he received his degree in Economics and Law). During World War II, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Following the war, he completed his education and entered the family business. In 1956, he married Nora Marilyn Lavis, with whom he had three children: David, Peter, and Lynne (now known as Taylor).

Media owner

On his father's death, Thomson succeeded as 2nd Lord Thomson of Fleet. However, Thomson never used his noble title in Canada and never took up his seat in the House of Lords. In a 1980 interview with Saturday Night magazine he said "In London I'm Lord Thomson, in Toronto I'm Ken. I have two sets of Christmas cards and two sets of stationery. You might say I'm having my cake and eating it too. I'm honouring a promise to my father by being Lord Thomson, and at the same time I can just be Ken."[3]

Rich as he was, he was also known for his down-to-earth demeanor: he bought his suits "off the rack", was once seen wearing shoes with holes in them, and one was just as likely to bump into him walking his dogs in the Rosedale area near his home than at any high society party. He was unfailingly courteous and patient with everyone he met, even total strangers. Ken regularly visited the Toronto Humane Society, where he comforted and walked the dogs.

He also succeeded his father as chair of what was then a media empire made up of extensive newspaper and television holdings. The Thomson media empire added the prestigious Globe and Mail in Toronto to The Times and Sunday Times in Britain and The Jerusalem Post in Israel. Under Lord Thomson of Fleet, the Thomson Corporation sold its North Sea oil holdings and sold The Times to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and the Jerusalem Post to Conrad Black's Hollinger Inc. The Globe and Mail was combined with BCE's cable and television assets (including CTV and The Sports Network) to form Bell Globemedia, controlled by BCE with Thomson as a minority shareholder. The company then sold all of its community newspapers to become a financial data services giant and one of the world's most powerful information services and academic publishing companies. Today, the company operates primarily in the United States from its headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. In 2002, The Thomson Corporation was listed on the New York Stock Exchange as "TOC".

According to Forbes Magazine in 2005, the Thomson family is the richest in Canada, and Lord Thomson of Fleet was the fifteenth richest person in the world, with a personal net worth of US $17.9 billion. Between the time of that report and his death, he jumped six positions to ninth with assets of almost $22.6 billion.

Over the past fifty years, Thomson distinguished himself as one of North America's leading art collectors and has been a major benefactor to the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2002 he paid the highest price ever for a Canadian painting when he purchased Canadian artist Paul Kane's Scene from the Northwest: Portrait of John Henry Lefroy.[4] At a Sotheby's auction that year, Thomson purchased Peter Paul Rubens' painting "The Massacre of the Innocents" for £49.5 million (US $77 million).


In 2002, Lord Thomson of Fleet stepped down as Chair of Thomson Corporation, installing his eldest son, David Thomson. He retained his positions as Chairman of The Woodbridge Company, the family's holding company, which owned a controlling share of Thomson Corporation. Following his retirement from active business, he donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario nearly 2,000 art works worth more than US $300 million, representing the finest private art collection in Canada. His gift contained masterpieces by renowned Canadian artists plus those from his collection of European works of art dating from the Middle Ages to the mid-nineteenth century, including Rubens' Massacre of the Innocents.

Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Roy Thomson
Baron Thomson of Fleet
Succeeded by
David Thomson


  1. ^ Management. Accessed March 23, 2006.
  2. ^ Forbes. Kenneth Thomson & family. March 9, 2006.
  3. ^ Martin, Sandra (2006-06-12). "A man of small economies and grand generosities". The Globe and Mail (Toronto: CTVglobemedia). Retrieved 2008-05-08.  
  4. ^ CTV: Thomson family buyer of $117-million painting, July 13, 2002. Has a mention of the Paul Kane painting at the bottom.

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