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Secretive family dynasty mourns loss of leading member

The Irving family, one of Canada's foremost business families, has been dealt a blow with the death on Wednesday of John E (Jack) Irving, youngest son of revered industrialist KC Irving.

The passing of the 78-year-old following a brief illness comes hours after it was confirmed that his nephew Kenneth was taking an indefinite leave of absence from Irving Oil, one of the Irving group of companies, for personal reasons.

"For more than 50 years, Jack Irving was truly the builder of the family," New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham said in a statement. "He was responsible for the design and construction of the facilities that have made the Irving Group the presence it is in our region."

The Irvings' sprawling empire is tightly controlled and is privately owned by the family.
 
Jack is understood to have been given ownership and responsibility for the family's construction, engineering and steel fabrication companies when his father's empire was carved up between himself and his two brothers following KC's death in 1992.
 
Middle brother Arthur was given ownership and responsibility for Irving Oil, while eldest brother James got conglomerate JD Irving, the business that was founded by their grandfather James Durgavel Irving, in 1882.
 
All three brothers are ranked 212 on the Forbes global rich list 2010 with a net worth of $4 billion.
 
James, chairman and CEO of JD Irving, said in a statement: "Today is a very sad day for me as we mourn the passing of my brother. Jack was a great brother and friend."
 
Jack first joined his father and brothers in the growing group of Irving companies in 1952. When KC retired in 1972, Jack was named executive vice-president of Irving Oil and went on to become a director of the many Irving companies.
 
However, much less is known about him in recent years as he took an increasingly back seat in the business, principally as a result of his kidnapping in 1982. He was recovered unharmed, but is understood to have been a changed man as a result, stepping away from the hard-nosed business dealings of his brothers and becoming much more reflective.
 
His death and the departure of his nephew leave more questions that answers as to the future of the dynasty. While JD Irving seems in safe hands with James and his two sons Robert and Jim maintaining the family legacy, rumours persist that other next generation members are fighting against the centralised nature of the overall business.
 
Fort Reliance, the holding company of Irving Oil and its subsidiaries, last year hired two senior non-family executives to help run it in a move that demonstrates increased professionalism as well as a lack of family members willing or able to take it on.

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