Memorable Manitobans: George Maxwell “Max” Bell (1912-1972)
Born at Regina, Saskatchewan on 13 October 1912, son of George Melrose Bell, he attended St. John’s-Ravenscourt School and graduated from St. John’s College (1927) and McGill University (1932). Bell made a fortune in oil, stock investing, and publishing, becoming a partner and chairman of one of Canada’s largest newspaper chains. In 1947, he formed a company to buy rights on Crown oil reserves, struck oil and formed a production company to refine and market it. He later became active in publishing, first rescuing the Calgary Albertan from insolvency then buying the Edmonton Bulletin in 1948. He purchasing controlling interest in the Victoria Times and the Victoria Colonist, and in 1954 bought a large share of the Lethbridge Herald. He partnered with Victor Sifton, owner of the Winnipeg Free Press, to purchase the Ottawa Journal, creating what later became FP Publications Limited. Bell folded the Vancouver Sun into FP Publications in 1963, adding the Globe and Mail in 1965.
Bell tried to gain control of the Hudson’s Bay Company with a $6 million investment in 1950 but backed out before realizing his objective. He began buying CPR stock in 1962, became a director of the company in 1963, and was reportedly its largest shareholder by the late 1960s. He had a long-standing interest in horses, establishing a ranch to breed and race them.
He established the Max Bell Foundation in 1972, shortly before his death, to further his interests in community philanthropy. He died following brain surgery at Montreal on 19 July 1972. He was buried in Calgary, Alberta. The Max Bell Centre, a building at the Fort Garry campus of the University of Manitoba, is named for him.
“Max Bell, 59, FP Chairman dies in Montreal hospital”, Winnipeg Free Press, 20 July 1972, page 12.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 3 April 2011
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