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McCain Foods founder dies

Wallace McCain, co-founder of Canadian frozen food empire McCain Foods and chairman of Maple Leaf Foods, died on 13 May aged 81.

Wallace McCain, co-founder of Canadian frozen food empire McCain Foods and chairman of Maple Leaf Foods, died on 13 May aged 81.

McCain died after a long battle with cancer and is survived by his wife, four children and nine grandchildren.

McCain founded the eponymous family business along with his brother Harrison in New Brunswick, Canada in 1956. In its first year, the company had sales of around $150,000, and in the 1960s it started offering its frozen potato products to consumers outside Canada.

Known for his deal-making skills, McCain expanded the company through a series of acquisitions – the group purchased plants in New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands and began to produce frozen pizzas, vegetables and frozen fish. One of McCain’s biggest acquisitions was in 1997 when he bought Ore-Ida Food Service and its five production facilities – this made McCain Foods a world leader in frozen food appetisers.

Despite taking the business to new heights, a feud between the two brothers saw McCain exit the family business in 1994. A year later he and his son Michael acquired Maple Leaf Foods – McCain became its chairman while his son was the chief executive.

In his 16 years as head of Maple Leaf Foods, McCain transformed the food company into a packaged goods business, with revenues of over $5 billion in 2010. Both McCain Foods and Maple Leaf Foods were listed in Campden FB’s 2011 list of the top 100 family businesses in North America in terms of revenues.

The youngest in the family with five older siblings, McCain began his career as a salesman for Green Grass Insecticides, followed by a stint with Thorne’s Hardware where he quickly rose to the position of general manager.

Wallace McCain was also known for his philanthropy – he helped raise funds for Canada’s National Ballet School and also set up an entrepreneur training institute. Along with his wife Margaret, McCain founded the Wallace McCain Family Foundation, which focused on research into early childhood programs and policies within Canada.

With an estimated wealth of $2.3 billion according to Forbes, McCain is famous for saying: “I liked making money, but I love giving it away even more.”

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