Linamar’s Frank Hasenfratz, who based a $5-billion world auto-parts firm from his storage, dies at 86


Frank Hasenfratz was honoured because the Canadian Entrepreneur of the 12 months, inducted into the Canadian Manufacturing Corridor of Fame and the Canadian Enterprise Corridor of Fame, and was appointed to the Order of Canada.Barrie Davis/The Globe and Mail

Frank Hasenfratz, a Hungarian immigrant who constructed Linamar Corp. right into a $5-billion auto-parts firm from a startup enterprise in his storage, died Saturday on the age of 86.

Mr. Hasenfratz, who was govt chairman of the corporate at his dying, was surrounded by his household, the corporate mentioned in an announcement. The reason for dying was most cancers, the assertion mentioned.

“It was his imaginative and prescient and unrelenting drive that enabled us to construct the corporate that Linamar is right this moment,” mentioned his daughter, Linda Hasenfratz, who has served as the corporate’s chief govt officer since she changed her father in 2002.

“He leaves an amazing legacy on the Canadian enterprise panorama, modified the lives of so many, and offered careers, livelihoods and alternatives for 1000’s of individuals. He impressed and taught so many, myself most profoundly, and his spirit will stay on in every of us as we proceed to construct the legacy of Linamar.”

The corporate mentioned its board of administrators has a succession and renewal plan in place for the chief chair place “which might be carried out within the coming weeks.”

As a younger man in Hungary, Mr. Hasenfratz was coaching as a technical officer within the military when the Soviets roared in and crushed the nation’s 1956 rebellion. Realizing it was prudent to go away the nation, he fled to Austria after which went on to Italy, the place he labored as a translator in refugee camps. He moved on to Le Havre, the French port. There he met some sailors who advised him he might get passage to North America if he was prepared to work on their freighter. Mr. Hasenfratz signed on.

The freighter docked in Quebec Metropolis, the place an immigration officer boarded and requested Mr. Hasenfratz to establish himself. “I advised him that I used to be a Hungarian refugee,” Mr. Hasenfratz advised The Globe and Mail in a 2005 interview. “It took him 5 or 10 minutes and he gave me immigration standing, together with $5 to spend. I stuffed out the paper, he mentioned, ‘Signal right here,’ and ‘Welcome to the nation.’ ”

Mr. Hasenfratz ended up engaged on a farm close to Guelph, Ont. His employer drove him into city every day so he might search for a job in his actual line of labor, tool-and-die making. Inside weeks, he landed a job with an organization making elements for the Avro Arrow mission, the try and construct a Canadian interceptor jet that was infamously cancelled by the Diefenbaker authorities.

Quickly Mr. Hasenfratz was working within the machine store of a agency whose merchandise included gasoline pumps for Ford Motor Co. Nearly 1 / 4 of the pumps have been faulty, which so annoyed Mr. Hasenfratz that he give up the corporate and landed the contract to produce the pumps himself. It was a daring transfer for a younger breadwinner with two babies. However the auto pact got here into impact, and he began getting extra contracts out of Detroit. His auto components enterprise took off.

Linamar, based formally in 1966, took its title from Mr. Hasenfratz’s daughters Linda and Nancy and spouse Margaret. It went public on the Toronto Inventory Trade in 1986 and commenced a worldwide growth within the Nineties. A sequence of acquisitions expanded its geographic attain and its variety of product traces.

At the moment, Linamar has 26,000 workers in 60 manufacturing areas, 12 research-and-development centres and 25 gross sales workplaces in 17 international locations in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Along with a variety of auto components and elements, Linamar additionally makes lifts for the aerial work platform business and agricultural harvesting tools. Over the previous 12 months, it recorded $6.7-billion in gross sales and almost $500-million in revenue. At Friday’s inventory market shut, buyers valued the corporate at simply greater than $5.1-billion.

Mr. Hasenfratz served as chairman of the corporate’s board for 55 years.

Mr. Hasenfratz belonged to a era of immigrant engineers and tradespeople who stuffed Canada’s abilities hole within the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, and stayed to construct main manufacturing corporations.

The checklist contains Klaus Woerner of ATS Automation Tooling Methods, a maker of producing tools; Val O’Donovan, of Com Dev Worldwide, a satellite tv for pc elements provider; Robert Schad, of plastics know-how maker Husky Injection Molding Methods; and Vic De Zen, of Royal Group Applied sciences, a pacesetter in plastic constructing supplies.

It additionally contains Frank Stronach, founding father of auto components large Magna Worldwide. Mr. Hasenfratz and Mr. Stronach got here to Canada inside three years of one another, constructed huge auto-parts corporations, and every had a daughter succeed him on the prime of the corporate. (Belinda Stronach later left Magna to enter politics.)

In his 2005 interview with The Globe, Mr. Hasenfratz recalled a dialog with Mr. Stronach years in the past during which the Magna chief noticed that they each had roots in the identical place. “Sure, the Hungarian-Austro empire,” Mr. Hasenfratz joked. Mr. Stronach shot again: “No, no, that’s fallacious – it’s the Austro-Hungarian empire.”

Mr. Hasenfratz was honoured because the Canadian Entrepreneur of the 12 months, inducted into the Canadian Manufacturing Corridor of Fame and the Canadian Enterprise Corridor of Fame, and was appointed to the Order of Canada.

He donated to quite a few philanthropic causes in Guelph and surrounding Southwestern Ontario, together with the Guelph Basic Hospital, College of Western Ontario, St. Joseph’s Basis and the native performing arts.

Mr. Hasenfratz was predeceased by his spouse Margaret Hasenfratz. He leaves behind his daughter Linda and son-in-law Ed and their 4 kids, in addition to daughter Nancy and son-in-law Mark.

In its assertion, Linamar mentioned “we are going to proceed to stay by Frank’s phrases to try to repeatedly enhance, act rapidly and decisively, set targets and observe progress and all the time ‘Do What We Do Finest, Higher.’ ”

With a report from Gordon Pitts

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