Mr. Gerald Wilfred Schwartz was born in Winnipeg in 1941, the son of lawyer, Lillian Arkin, and auto-parts dealer, Andrew O. Schwartz. He grew up in Winnipeg’s River Heights neighbourhood and studied business at the University of Manitoba. He earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1962 and a law degree in 1966. After articling with Israel Asper, he practiced corporate and tax law in Winnipeg before pursuing a Master of Business Administration from Harvard University in 1970.
During his ten years away from home, he worked first at the New York brokerage firm, Estabrook & Company, and later at Bear Stearns & Co. In 1977, he returned to Canada and, with Mr. Asper, co-founded CanWest Capital, which later became CanWest Global Communications, one of the country’s largest media companies.
Mr. Schwartz was one of the first to introduce leveraged buyouts in Canada, and in 1983, he founded Onex Corporation, serving as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Over the years, Onex has acquired hundreds of undervalued companies, including Beatrice Foods, Celestica Inc. and Loews Cineplex, transforming them into successful operations. Through his prodigious skill and leadership, Onex has grown into one of the world’s most respected private equity firms with more than 146,000 employees worldwide and $24 billion in global revenue.
A staunch ally of Israel, Mr. Schwartz has built a reputation as this country’s largest financial supporter of Jewish charities and advocacy groups in Canada and Israel. Together with his wife, entrepreneur Ms. Heather Reisman, he has also donated millions of dollars to health, education, literacy, politics and human rights, driven by a keen sense of public service and a feeling of responsibility to help those less fortunate. He has been a director, governor or trustee of many organizations, including the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, Indigo Books & Music, Mount Sinai Hospital and Harvard Business School.
Mr. Schwartz holds two honorary doctorates and has won numerous business accolades. He is a member of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame and in 2006, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian award.
He is one of our nation’s most successful business leaders and philanthropists, whose loyalty to a broad spectrum of communities and causes will continue to benefit Canadians for years to come.
The University of Manitoba is proud to honour Mr. Gerald Schwartz with a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for his brilliant leadership and business acumen, and his wide-ranging philanthropy.
Gerald W. Schwartz