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December 7, 2000



The John Molson School of Business

Visit the John Molson School of Business web site.


The Faculty of Commerce and Administration has been renamed for the founder of one of Montreal’s greatest business dynasties, thanks to a $10-million donation from Molson.

Eric H. Molson, Chancellor of Concordia and chairman of the board of Molson, was on hand November 29 for the launch of the school’s new name. Its logo is a stylized “JM.”

Molson told of the impressive climb of his great-great-great-grandfather from 18-year-old immigrant to business tycoon and civic leader. “He was curious, creative and hardworking, an ideal inspiration for business students.”

For Rector Frederick Lowy, the generous gift from Molson is the anchor donation of a building campaign that will see a new, high-tech learning facility on the corner of Guy St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd., across from the GM Building, where the Faculty is currently housed.

Dean Mohsen Anvari said, “John Molson’s legacy is a testament to the power of entrepreneurial spirit and a strong sense of community. Our new name symbolizes those ideals, along with our own strong traditions of academic and business excellence.

“Innovation, hard work and commitment to the community — these are the values that make great business leaders and great citizens, and that we strive to foster at our School.”

November 29 was a day of celebration for students, faculty, staff and friends of the former Faculty. It culminated in a well-attended cocktail party at the elegant Mount Royal Club on Sherbrooke St.

Montreal mayor Pierre Bourque charmed the crowd by praising Concordians for their spirit and referring several times to the corner of Guy and Ste. Catherine Sts. as “that terrible corner.”

As with the other two projected Concordia buildings, more than half the required money has been identified, and an internal fundraising campaign is underway. Altogether, the three new buildings are expected to cost $200 million. It is hoped that construction will begin sometime next year.

John Molson: Role model for entrepreneurs

John Molson founded a still-thriving brewery, a steamship business, one of Canada’s first banks, and Montreal’s first luxury hotel. He built the first theatre in the city, helped to found the Montreal General Hospital, and sat in the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada.

He was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1763. Orphaned by the time he was eight, he inherited a 40-acre estate. At 18, he set sail for the New World.

Montreal then had a population of 8,000. Though prosperity was often linked to the fur business, Molson saw that the demand for beer would grow as Montreal swelled with increasing numbers of British emigrants, garrison troops and United Empire Loyalists. Furthermore, relatively little capital was needed to get started.

In 1786, John Molson established his brewery as far up the St. Lawrence as ships then sailed, near the foot of the present Jacques-Cartier Bridge. He gave Canadian farmers free barley seed so that he would have a ready supply.

After only six weeks, he delivered his batch of ale, which, at only five cents a bottle, sold out immediately. The brewery grew, and before long, he branched into other fields.

Inspired by the example of Robert Fulton, the American engineer and inventor, Molson built Canada’s first steamboat, The Accommodation, christened in 1809. It was the first to be entirely built outside the British Isles, and the world’s third commercial steamboat. It took 36 hours to travel from Montreal to Quebec City. (With a six-cylinder engine, it was a little slow.) Within two years, however, Molson had built The Swiftsure, the largest steamboat in the world, which did the trip in a speedy 24 hours. For the next decade, Molson boats would dominate the entire length of the waterway from Kingston to Quebec City.

His boats were described as floating banks, because in addition to the passengers and cargo that they carried, they often carried discounted bank notes to Quebec City for redemption, and currency back to Montreal for further purchases. This nascent banking business would eventually become the Molson’s Bank in 1854, established by his son, William. When it merged with the Bank of Montreal in 1925, Molson’s Bank had 125 branches.

In 1816, on a large waterfront property, Molson built the Mansion House, one of the most luxurious hotels on the continent. It became a meeting place for the affluent. He added a public wharf, which also serviced his steamship business. The Mansion House burned down in 1821 and was rebuilt as the British American Hotel.

In 1825, Molson added a theatre to his hotel. While plays had long been staged in Montreal in makeshift theatres, there had never been a dedicated playhouse. The Théâtre Royal was built at a cost of £7,500, and for John Molson, it was more of a contribution to the community than a moneymaking idea. It enhanced the cultural life of the day.

A sense of civic duty and frustration prompted John Molson to enter politics. In 1816, he was elected to the Legislative Assembly as the member for Montreal East. In 1819, he petitioned the Assembly for financial support for a public hospital in Montreal.

Although his petition was not successful, it initiated a privately funded endeavour that became the Montreal General Hospital. Molson was on the hospital’s Board of Governors in 1823 when it established the Montreal Medical Institute, Canada’s first medical school.

Molson was one of 74 businessmen who obtained a charter in 1832 to build Canada’s first railway, the Champlain and St. Lawrence Railroad, which ran between La Prairie on the St. Lawrence and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu.

Molson bore a quarter of the cost of the railroad, and his son John was elected its first president. On July 21, 1836, The Dorchester made her first official run, but John Molson, Senior, died before the opening ceremonies.