Jack Irving passes away; Ken Irving steps down

SAINT JOHN, N.B. — John E. Irving, a man described by former New Brunswick premier Richard Hatfield as a “gentleman with a gentle soul" — and perhaps the only Canadian tycoon to ever get kidnapped — died Wednesday at 78.

Irving, who went as Jack, was known as the quiet one of three Irving brothers who grew the J.C. Irving empire from a small family business into an oil, forestry and transportation enterprise that sprawled the globe. His brothers are J.K. and Arthur Irving.

Within the trucking industry, the Irvings are probably most associated with carriers Midland, Sunbury and RST.

However, Irving also owns Irving Oil, marine and rail interests as well as a vast array of manufacturing and raw-materials processing operations.

(Jack was mostly responsible for the family construction, engineering and steel fabrication operations.)

Born in 1932, Irving made front pages across Canada in 1982 when he was taken hostage by a gunman demanding $50,000. He was held for 10 hours before being released and the kidnapper charged.

One biographer called the incident a “brush with mortality” that contributed to Jack’s genteel persona.

Irving passed away after a brief illness and is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren. Tributes have poured in from around the globe.

His passing coincides with another dramatic loss for the company. Just hours before the family announced Irving’s death, they also stated that his nephew, Kenneth Irving, the CEO at Irving Oil, was taking health-related leave of absence of indeterminate length.

The loss of the two leaders leaves a major gap in the upper echelons of the $4-billion enterprise. 

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