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Argus Corporation

Argus Corporation
Company typeHolding company

The Argus Corporation was an investment holding company based in Toronto, Ontario. During the 1960s and 1970s, it was the most powerful and best known conglomerate in Canada,[1] at one time controlling the companies making up 10 percent of all shares traded daily on the Toronto Stock Exchange.[2]

At its height in the 1970s, it was a true conglomerate with many unrelated businesses. Among these were Dominion grocery stores, Orange Crush soft drinks, Massey Ferguson farm machinery, Domtar wood products and Carling O'Keefe breweries.

The company was purchased by Conrad Black in 1978. Black and his associates sold off most of the Argus assets by 1985, and by 2005 Argus contained only one asset and was itself wholly owned by Black's Ravelston Corporation. Due to the fallout of ongoing lawsuits, Ravelston went bankrupt in 2008, and Argus disappeared.[citation needed]


Argus was founded as an investment holding company in 1945 by E. P. Taylor[3] with minority partners Colonel W. Eric Phillips, Wallace McCutcheon, Bud McDougald, and other less influential investors.[3] The company was formed through Taylor's brewery empire, Canadian Breweries Limited, which was later known as Carling O'Keefe, and which Argus took control over.[4] Argus was also set up with the support of the American Atlas Corporation, itself a holding company.[3]

In 1958, Argus moved its headquarters to the prestigious location of 10 Toronto Street, where it stayed until its demise.[5]


Argus was once one of Canada's most powerful conglomerates.[2] By 1964, 10 percent of all shares traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange were controlled by Argus.[2] In 1969, E.P. Taylor appointed McDougald to run operations. In the 1970s, it controlled large companies including Canadian Breweries Limited, Dominion Stores,[6] Hollinger Mines,[6] Crown Trust, Domtar,[6] Standard Broadcasting[6] and Massey Ferguson,[6] as well as at some point or other having control or significant shareholdings in other Canadian companies such as Dominion Malting Co., Orange Crush Ltd., British Columbia Forest Products Limited and the St. Lawrence Corporation, a wood pulp processor.[7]

The company's importance was so great that when Paul Desmarais of the Power Corporation of Canada attempted, but later failed, to acquire Argus, the federal government of Pierre Elliot Trudeau responded by creating the Royal Commission on Corporate Concentration in 1975, which is held to be a token of the influence of the Desmarais clan over the affairs of the nation. [8]

Conrad Black

Shortly after the death of McDougald in 1978, his widow and her sister sold their shares to Conrad Black while the widows were under the influence of what The Globe and Mail called "slow-witted advisers".[2] The transaction led to a high-profile falling out between the families.[9] The move gave Black effective voting control and he became president of the corporation.[10] The move also was financially lucrative for Black - his net worth grew to an estimated $50 million in 1978.[9] Black and his associates sold off most of the assets by 1985, and used the money to invest in media properties. In 2005, Argus's only asset was the Toronto-based holding company Hollinger Inc. Argus itself was 100 percent controlled by Ravelston Corporation[11]—itself a holding company controlled until 2005 by Black and his long-time associate David Radler. The company went into receivership along with Ravelston in 2005 due to the legal troubles of its chairman, and eventually went bankrupt in 2008 while Black was in prison.[12][13]

Notable assets

A list of assets once owned by Argus included:

Chairmen of the Board of Directors


  1. ^ Martin, Joe (2009-09-19). Relentless Change: A Casebook for the Study of Canadian Business History. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 9781442697157.
  2. ^ a b c d "Bud McDougald, the death of an establishment man". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  3. ^ a b c Park, Libbie; Park, Frank (1973-01-01). Anatomy of Big Business. James Lorimer & Company. ISBN 9780888620408.
  4. ^ Gonick, Cy (1975-01-01). Inflation Or Depression: The Continuing Crisis of the Canadian Economy. James Lorimer & Company. ISBN 9780888620798.
  5. ^ Levine, Allan (2014-09-13). Toronto: Biography of a City. D&M Publishers Incorporated. ISBN 9781771620437.
  6. ^ a b c d e Carroll, William K. (2011-11-01). Corporate Power and Canadian Capitalism. UBC Press. ISBN 9780774844932.
  7. ^ Newman, Peter C. (1982). The Establishment Man: Conrad Black, A Portrait of Power. McClelland and Stewart. pp. 70–71. ISBN 0-7710-6786-0.
  8. ^ Gorecki, Paul K.; Stanbury, W. T. (1984-01-01). The Objectives of Canadian Competition Policy, 1888-1983. Institute for Research on Public Policy. ISBN 9780886450021.
  9. ^ a b Tombs, George (2007-11-01). Robber Baron: Lord Black of Crossharbour. ECW Press. ISBN 9781554903122.
  10. ^ "Conrad Black to be allowed back into Canada after prison release". National Post. 2012-05-01. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  11. ^ "Argus Corporation Ltd". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  12. ^ "Lights out for Black's once-mighty Ravelston". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-10-21.
  13. ^ "Argus Corporation Limited: Private Company Information - Businessweek". Retrieved 2015-10-21.
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Argus Corporation
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