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Burton, G. Allan.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1986, 330pp, cloth, $24.95, ISBN 0-7710-1792-8, CIP

Grades 10 and up
Reviewed by David Chadwick

Volume 15 Number 3
1987 May

The Burton family, father and sons, dominated Simpsons Limited from the time Allan Burton's father managed and owned controlling interest in the firm in 1929 to the late nineteen seventies, when it was bought out in rapid succession first by the Hudson's Bay Company and then both were swallowed up by the Thompson newspaper chain in 1979. Burton's autobiography naturally deals mainly with his career at Simpsons, where he rose to be Chairman of the Board. Burton also served on several boards of civic and other business groups, such as the United Appeal, Board of Trade, and as a bank director. Now retired, he has written a very frank and at times blunt account of his life and associates. While the growth of Simpsons during this century has been impressive, it cannot be said to be particularly exciting for the general reader and. as such, the appeal of this book must be said to be very limited.

That Burton rose from stockboy to chairman is a tribute to his perseverance, talent, and ability, as well as his family connections. That he feels free to frequently complain of the wages of blue collar workers is also his right. But for one of Canada's major businessmen to spend so much time complaining about wages and unions suggests that it is no coincidence that Canada, compared to other countries, has so many labour disputes.

Burton's account of how Eatons and Simpsons worked together developing shopping malls from the first major mall, Yorkdale, is revealing, as is his account of the intrigue involved first in the Simpson/ Sears merger, and then the buying up of Simpsons by the Hudson's Bay Company and finally the takeover by the Thompson newspaper chain. These chapters would be of interest to business students wanting to study mergers and their costs. All in all, the book is unlikely to be in much demand in either public libraries or in schools.

David Chadwick, Winnipeg, Man.
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