Few in Vancouver will have met or seen Austin Taylor Jr. in action during their lifetimes. It is a pity. The local born Taylor left Vancouver in 1978 to lead McLeod Young Weir to become one of most innovative and creative investment banks in Canada. He was thought to be among the last of the great investment bankers in Canada.
Austintatious, as the 6′ 4″ 300 lb Chief Executive was known, was from a family nearing Vancouver royalty. His father Austin Cottrell Taylor helped build this Province as an industrialist, forester, miner, financier and horseman. Austin Jr. grew up in the Taylor Mansion, which became the centrepiece of the Arthur Erickson designed community Shannon Mews at Granville Street and 57th Avenue. Austin’s sister was the late Patricia Buckley, wife of conservative publisher of the National Review William F. Buckley, and mother of Christopher Buckley, the renowned writer.
In honour of his style of leadership and to thank him for the critical role he played in my life, I wish to dedicate a series of articles and talks on some of the important issues we face. Through the chance that Austin gave me and the trust he showed, I have had the most incredible life experiences anyone could seek. The experiences have afforded me a perspective on issues that may be of some help and use to others. These thoughts would never have been possible without this ‘Vancouver Spirit’ of this larger than life Canadian. While no monument stands to remember him, there are people everywhere that remember him and what he did for others. Austin believed in the potential of us all.
There are Austin Taylor stories everywhere, and I hope to add to them as a backdrop to these talks. In addition to being razor sharp, he was kind and funny, but was absolutely massive. He walked with a limp, lame from being kicked by a horse. Like his father, he loved horses.
Years ago, during the last of some 15 interviews with the partners and staff of McLeod Young Weir, Austin told me to get the job, coveted by a thousand MBA’s in Canada and the US, I needed to write well. Looking right at me, he measured me, the young man of 24. “Are you a good writer Peter?” he asked. My entire life would turn on the answer. Without this job, life would have been much, much different. At the same time, I had to be truthful. “Mr. Taylor” I cleared by throat. “I have studied science for years and never really needed to write. I write not nearly well enough to get this job, in fact. However, I have started recently to read and think I can learn.” After a brief pause, while he thought, I added. “If you give me this job, I promise to learn to write, and one day make you proud.” And that was it. He believed in me, he had faith in the potential of others. I got that only other job that year, in competition with some highly competent others. It started such an amazing life.
Here is a obituary from the Princeton Weekly Review, where he studied.
Austin Edward George Taylor – Class of ’52
Austin Taylor died in Vancouver on Dec. 19, 1996, after an 18-month battle with prostate cancer. The only son of a mining, lumber, and oil magnate in Vancouver, he had returned for treatment to the city of his birth.
Austin’s nickname was “Austintatious,” referring to his physical size, 6’4″ and 300 lbs. Perhaps it also reflected the awe in which he was held for turning McLeod Young Weir Ltd., a second-tier firm, into Scotia-McLeod Inc., a giant of Toronto’s financial district. In a 1987 interview, Austin said, “I was an utter failure until I turned 40. I was filled with impatience, boredom, and greed…I was a disappointment to my family.”
Having dropped out of Princeton and the U. of British Columbia, Austin drifted through several jobs. His energies were mobilized when he took over the Vancouver office of McLeod Young Weir in 1964. He became CEO in 1978, and from its Toronto headquarters established himself as the last of the great, charismatic leaders in the Canadian investment business, knowing all 2,300 employees by their first name. The firm was sold to the Bank of Nova Scotia in 1987, and Austin took early retirement in 1993.
Austin is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Newbold Taylor, and daughters Lisa, Kathleen, Patricia and Michelle. We offer them profound sympathy.