Billionaire Jack Irving of Canada's Second-Richest Family Dies at Age 78

John E. (Jack) Irving, a member of Canada’s second-richest family who helped expand its oil and construction businesses, died after a brief illness. He was 78.

“Today is a very sad day for me as we mourn the passing of my brother Jack,” James Irving said in a news release on the J.D. Irving Ltd. website.

Jack Irving was the youngest of three sons, along with James and Arthur, who led the oil, forest-products, newspaper and retail businesses in New Brunswick that were started by their father Kenneth Colin Irving and their grandfather James Dergavel Irving.

Jack was born in 1932 in Saint John, New Brunswick. He got his start in business selling magazines door to door and raising hens at age eight with his older brothers, according to the text of a speech in 2001 at the University of New Brunswick, where he was given an honorary degree.

“For more than 50 years, Jack Irving was truly the builder of the family,” New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham said today in a statement on the government’s website.

Jack Irving joined the family-run oil company, Irving Oil, in 1952 and later managed construction and engineering companies. He was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2007. He and his brothers were inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame the following year.

The Irvings ranked second in Canada with a net worth of C$7.3 billion ($7 billion) last year, according to Canadian Business magazine. The family of Kenneth Thomson, who died four years ago, ranked first.

Quiet One

“Jack was the quiet one in the family,’’ Saint John Mayor Ivan Court said in a phone interview. “He did a lot of great things and made a lot of donations that people probably aren’t aware of.”

Irving is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren.

Irving Oil -- started with a single garage and service station in 1924 -- is now one of Canada’s biggest energy companies. It has a refining capacity of 300,000 barrels a day and operates from 13 marine terminals, according to its website. Irving Oil supplies customers in Eastern Canada, Quebec and New England.

To contact the reporter for this story: Frederic Tomesco in Montreal at

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