Meet four Albertans who have put their wealth to interesting use
Read what Allan Markin, David Werklund, Pat Bowlen and Don Taylor each did with their money
by Alix Kemp
Illustration Pete Ryan
We all want to make some kind of a mark on the world. Some of us leave a larger mark than others. Here’s a look at four Albertans who put their millions to use, whether to found their own non-profit, buy a sports team or start a school.
Former chairman, CNRL; Part-owner, Calgary Flames;
Founder, Pure North S’Energy
The chairman of CNRL until 2012, Allan Markin is well-known for being generous with his millions. Until 2013, he held the record for the largest donation in the history of the University of Calgary when he donated $18 million to the school in 2004. He was one of the founders of St. Mary’s University College, and he’s donated $20 million to that institution over the past 20 years. But Markin’s most notable use of his money might be Pure North S’Energy Foundation, the not-for-profit health organization he established in 2006. Originally meant as a workplace health initiative for CNRL employees, Pure North is a preventive health program that provides vitamin supplements, lifestyle counselling and some dental services to participants. Markin funds the organization himself, aside from some shipping costs covered by participants. Last year, he invested $54 million.
The program has encountered some controversy – it’s largely based in alternative medicine, and encourages participants to take high doses of various vitamins with little evidence of efficacy. That hasn’t stopped Markin from trying to grow the foundation, however. Pure North has been seeking funding from the provincial government to expand its services, and the organization claims that, according to its own research, it could reduce health care costs across the province by $500 million annually.
Net worth: $670 million
Price tag: $54 million (in 2013)
Founder and executive chairman, Werklund Capital
Founder and chairman of the board, Tervita
If you want to leave a legacy, one of the best things you can do is get something named after you. That’s what David Werklund accomplished when he donated $25 million to the University of Calgary in 2013, shattering Markin’s $18-million record for the largest individual donation, and establishing the Werklund School of Education. The donation is especially poignant considering that Werklund is himself a high school dropout who didn’t appreciate the value of education until much later on in his business career. In fact, his own difficulties in school led him to choose the education faculty for his gift, saying in a statement to announce the donation: “I just needed someone to encourage me to gain confidence in my own skills … Through the Werklund School of Education, I would like to see teachers given tools to help them truly connect with their students.” This isn’t Werklund’s first gift to the University of Calgary. He previously established the Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education, a research centre focused on youth studies and leadership education.
Net worth: $819 million
Donation: $25 million
Owner and CEO of the Denver Broncos
Pat Bowlen may have been born into money (his father was a wildcatter who co-founded Regent Drilling, now Regent Resources), but he also made his own way in the world. Bowlen had a successful law practice in Edmonton, and had major interests in both real estate development and the mining industry. But he hasn’t lived in Alberta since 1984, when he decided to use the fortune he’d amassed to make an investment of a different kind, buying the Denver Broncos with his family for US$78 million. The team was on the brink of bankruptcy, but Bowlen turned it around. This past November, he celebrated his 300th win as owner and CEO of the team.
Net worth: $1 billion
Broncos price tag: US$78 million
Adjusted for 2013 dollars: US$170
Current team value: US$1.2 billion
Founder, Resman Oil and Gas; Former president, Engineered Air
Like most Calgarians, Don Taylor has loved the Stampede his whole life. As a child, he peeled potatoes for his father’s hamburger stand there. Now, a successful businessman and philanthropist, he recently donated $15 million to the Calgary Stampede Foundation, the largest individual donation in the organization’s history. The donation will go towards the creation of the Sam Centre, an interactive museum and archive that tells visitors the history of the Stampede and of southern Alberta, and also home to the Stampede School program. The Sam Centre is named for Taylor’s father, Robert Samuel Taylor.
Donation: $15 million
Total construction cost: $30 million