PERSONAL: Married; wife's name, Sandy.
ADDRESSES: Home—Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House of Canada, One Toronto St., Unit 300, Toronto, Ontario M5C 2V6, Canada.
CAREER: Author and journalist. Canadian Business, contributing senior editor; Financial Post, senior writer.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Business Book Award, 1996, for Who Killed Confederation Life? The Inside Story; Canadian Authors Association Award for Canadian History, for The Eatons: The Rise and Fall of Canada's Royal Family.
The Money-Spinners: An Intimate Portrait of the MenWho Run Canada's Banks, Macmillan of Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1983.
Risky Business: Inside Canada's $86-Billion InsuranceIndustry, Macmillan of Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1985.
Leap of Faith: The MacDonald Report, Cowan & Company Publishers (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1985.
Blind Trust: Inside the Sinclair Stevens Affair, Macmillan of Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1987.
The Last Best Hope: How to Start and Grow YourOwn Business, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1995.
Who Killed Confederation Life?: The Inside Story, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1996.
The Eatons: The Rise and Fall of Canada's RoyalFamily, Stoddart (North York, Ontario, Canada), 1998.
Can't Buy Me Love: How Martha Billes Made Canadian Tire Hers, Stoddart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2001.
The Icarus Factor: The Rise and Fall of Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Doubleday Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.
Contributor to business magazines.
SIDELIGHTS: Rod McQueen has been a writer for top Canadian business publications such as Canadian Business and the Financial Post. He is also known for his bestselling books about troubled Canadian banking, insurance, retail and other businesses. He has marked out a specialization in the less-than-brilliant record chalked up by the scions of Canadian business dynasties, such as the Eaton, Billes, and Bronfman families.
In 1987 McQueen published Blind Trust: Inside the Sinclair Stevens Affair, which shows how dealmaker Sinclair McKnight Stevens became involved in the controversial business and political affairs that eventually led to an investigation by the Parker Commission and ultimately to Stevens's ruin. Sherri Aikenhead wrote in Maclean's that the book is "valuable" for "detailing the corporate reverberations of a tumultuous affair." According to Donald Swainson of Queen's Quarterly, McQueen "provides us with much fascinating material," including "the account of the commission proceedings." However, Swainson noted several flaws that affect the work's credibility: a lack of information on McQueen's sources and the omission of the investigative commission's actual findings.
McQueen provides information and inspiration for would-be entrepreneurs in his 1995 publication The Last Best Hope: How to Start and Grow Your Own Business. Several reviewers praised the work. In Canadian Book Review Annual Alice Kidd, though noting that the work lacks detailed information on preparing business plans or cash-flow reports, nevertheless called The Last Best Hope "well presented, with informative subheadings, a recurring Start-up Tips feature, lots of examples, and clear chapter summaries." In Maclean's, Peter C. Newman dubbed the book "a must-read for those contemplating going into business for themselves."
McQueen investigates the 1994 collapse of the Confederation Life Insurance Company in Who Killed Confederation Life?: The Inside Story. The bankruptcy of this company—the fourth-largest insurance company in Canada—generated over 2.5 billion Canadian dollars in losses as 4,400 people lost their jobs; public faith in Canadian insurance companies was also shaken. McQueen studies the causes of this failure, interviewing more than one hundred people in the process, and presents the results "in a lively narrative style," according to Susan Hughes in Quill and Quire. "McQueen tells in painstaking detail . . . who did what to whom and when," remarked Ellen Roseman in Books in Canada. Roseman also expressed several reservations about the book, criticizing its "sometimes overheated prose" and adding: "Like many journalists, Mr. McQueen is often too glib, relies too much on anecdotes, and quotes too heavily from sources with a vested interest." Writing in Canadian Book Review Annual, Duncan McDowall praised McQueen for telling a "gripping, fluid story" in which "He excels at presenting complex financial matters lucidly and with drama." McDowall noted that McQueen "provides a powerful antidote to the oft-heard criticism that our business journalism is hasty and shallow."
McQueen has also profiled three famous Canadian families—the Eatons, founders of the Eaton department store chain; the Billes family, founders of Canadian Tire Corporation; and the Bronfmans, the Seagrams whiskey barons. In The Eatons: The Rise and Fall of Canada's Royal Family, he chronicles the family's history beginning with Timothy Eaton, an Irish immigrant whose solid work ethic built the family enterprise, and ending with his descendants, whose disdain for commerce and lack of business sense led to the family's bankruptcy. Although Susan Hughes in Quill and Quire found unconvincing McQueen's arguments that the Eatons thought of themselves as royalty, she praised his blending of business and family struggles, describing the work as a "gripping account that reads like a novel." Deirdre McMurdy wrote in Maclean's: "This well-written, efficiently researched epitaph . . . is both modern in its focus and eminently well-constructed."
McQueen was inspired by a chance encounter with Martha Billes to write her story, published as Can't Buy Me Love: How Martha Billes Made Canadian Tire Hers. "Martha struck me as one of the most complex people I'd ever encountered in 25 years of business journalism," he told Books in Canada's John Oughton. To tell what Oughton termed the "intricate and fascinating tale" of her life, McQueen conducted thorough research including numerous interviews. After the death of Canadian Tire founder J. W. Billes, and the retirement of A. J. Billes, each of the three Billes children received twenty percent of the company's shares. After long battles among the siblings, youngest child Martha took control of Canadian Tire, making her one of the richest and most powerful businesswomen in Canada. Oughton wrote, "McQueen does a workmanlike job not only of simplifying the complex deals, shareholding structures and takeover maneuvers, but also of outlining the gender and sex-role expectations that impeded Martha's generation." Oughton, however, also found that "McQueen never succeeds in completely illuminating her character, the challenge that inspired this book."
Edgar Bronfman, Jr., whose dealmaking lost the family-owned house of Seagram billions of dollars, is the subject of McQueen's The Icarus Factor: The Rise and Fall of Edgar Bronfman, Jr. Selling off the key whiskey and chemical businesses, McQueen recounts, this third-generation Bronfman then bet the store on the volatile entertainment industry. Andrew Allentuck in the Globe and Mail summed up the book: "As a study in character, corporate misgovernance and family values, The Icarus Factor is compelling. As a postmortem on the demise of the house of Seagram, it is beating a dead horse."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Books in Canada, May, 1997, Ellen Roseman, review of Who Killed Confederation Life?: The Inside Story, p. 31; winter, 2002, John Oughton, review of Can't Buy Me Love: How Martha Billes Made Canadian Tire Hers, pp. 39-40.
Canadian Book Review Annual, 1995, Alice Kidd, review of The Last Best Hope: How to Start and Grow Your Own Business, p. 339; 1996, Duncan McDowall, review of Who Killed Confederation Life? pp. 314-315.
Canadian Business, December, 1983, review of TheMoney—spinners: An Intimate Portrait of the Men Who Run Canada's Banks, pp. 50-51.
Globe and Mail, October 10, 1998, review of TheEatons: The Rise and Fall of Canada's Royal Family,; November 10, 2001, Andrew Allentuck, review of Can't Buy Me Love; October 16, 2004, Andrew Allentuck, review of The Icarus Factor: The Rise and Fall of Edgar Bronfman, Jr., section D, page 3.
Maclean's, January 11, 1988, Sherri Aikenhead, review of Blind Trust: Inside the Sinclair Stevens Affair, p. 47; November 27, 1995, Peter C. Newman, review of The Last Best Hope, p. 44; October 26, 1998, Deirdre McMurdy, review of The Eatons, p. 85.
Queen's Quarterly, summer, 1989, Donald Swainson, review of Blind Trust, pp. 542-544.
Quill and Quire, October, 1995, Andrew Allentuck, review of The Last Best Hope, p. 29; November, 1996, Susan Hughes, review of Who Killed Confederation Life? p. 37; January, 1999, Susan Hughes, review of The Eatons, p. 31; February, 1999, Meredith Renwick, review of The Eatons, pp. 42-43.
Metro (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), http://www.metronews.ca/ (November 15, 2004), David Silverberg, review of The Icarus Factor*