Friday July 18, 2008
Hudson’s Bay Company sold to NRDC Equity
The combined company will be known as the Hudson’s Bay Trading Co and has 75,000 employees and annual sales totalling more than US$8 billion. (Source: CTV News)
COMMENTARY – by Graeme MacKay (Originally posted to Graeme’s Random Thots Blog)
We’ve become used to seeing long established Canadian commercial institutions pass on to the control of foreign hands as part of the realities of globalization. From donuts to beer, and from steel companies to department stores, many of the things Canadians have embraced as their own and habitually consumed for so long are suddenly coming from sources that are in the newly acquired hands of foreign corporations. To Canadian nationalists it is an outrage to know that the fate of their beloved Tim Horton’s maple glazed donut is in the hands of a board of directors based in Ohio. It is a abhorrant that their mug of Molson Canadian beer is partially at the mercy of a few suited people based in Denver. In this city, will it ever become part of the local lexicon to refer to Stelco, one of two Hamilton based steel companies sold to foreign buyers in the last couple of years, as US Steel Canada?
It all sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it?
Many will dismiss the sale of the Hudson’s Bay Company to a U.S. investment corporation that runs the Lord & Taylor department store with a big gaping yawn. Afterall, the company already switched into the hands of an American billionaire almost 3 years ago, and they’re still selling the same marked up sweatshop clothing they sold way before when the HBC was still in Canadian hands. Besides, it’s not like they’re still selling much sought after beaver pelts hiked in by fur trappers warding of black flies and polar bears after traversing the Canadian Shield.
I suppose what I and many others find intriguing and lamentable is how the story of the once mighty Hudson’s Bay Company ends like this. A company which essentially ruled over a vast swath of undeveloped land in North America for centuries is now just another token of commerce which can be flipped from one owner to another with little regard to its historical significance. A company chartered in 1670 by King Charles II, which built relations with natives and mapped out the rivers and coastlines leading to settlement and the eventual formation of borders which make up Canada. With a history that spanned centuries it’s difficult to blow this off as just another company whose name may change but whose stuff we’ll still be consuming.
But happily, the original documents, photos, drawings and records, all relating to the Hudson’s Bay Company will continue to remain in this country thanks to the HBC Archives permanently based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.