Vancouver philanthropist, billionaire Joe Segal dead at 97

·2 min read
Vancouver philanthropist and businessman Joe Segal has died at the age of 97. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Vancouver philanthropist and businessman Joe Segal has died at the age of 97. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Vancouver philanthropist, businessman and billionaire Joe Segal has died at the age of 97.

He leaves behind his wife of more than 70 years, Rosalie Segal, four children, 11 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

"He cared so deeply for each one of his family members," Segal's friend Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, told On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

Segal, who was born in Vegreville, Alta., was a self-made billionaire who got his start in business at the age of 14, selling frozen fish door-to-door by bicycle after his father died.

After serving in the Second World War, he opened an army surplus business in Vancouver, which turned into the Field department stores. He then bought out Zellers and eventually traded up for a stake in Hudson's Bay.

Submitted by Joe Segal
Submitted by Joe Segal

In past decades, he's been chiefly involved in property development with his company Kingswood Capital Corporation.

He frequented the Four Seasons hotel, which closed in 2020, where he made some of the biggest business deals of his career, including his 1988 acquisition of Block Brothers Realty, which turned him into a real estate magnate.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

In 1992, he received the Order of B.C., and a year later, was awarded the Order of Canada.

In 2017, a mental health and addictions centre was opened in Segal's name after he donated $12 million toward its construction in 2010. The total capital cost of the Joseph & Rosalie Segal Family Centre was $82 million.

Segal was chancellor of Simon Fraser University for six years and served on the school's board for 12. In 2005, the Segal Graduate School of Business in downtown Vancouver was named for Segal and his contributions to the university.

'A family man'

Peter Legge, chairman and CEO of independent publishing company Canada Wide Media, said he shared many lunches with Segal over four decades, over which Segal would advise Legge on how to handle personal and business issues.

Segal offered so much advice, in fact, that Legge authored a book about the growth of Segal's business empire and the wisdom he shared over the years, entitled Lunch With Joe.

"The influence he's had over my life, in shaping my character ... has been immense," Legge said.

He says his love and commitment to Rosalie will be what he remembers most about his friend.

"You could tell that he loved her," he said.

"He was a family man."

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