From newspapers to gas stations, the Irving clan has its hands in a sprawling amount of business. And 1.2 million of the Canadian family’s more than 3 million acres are in the northeastern United States. J.D. Irving, Limited, the family’s forestry business, can trace its beginnings to a single sawmill that opened in 1882, but JDI’s business ventures now include everything from shipbuilding to home-improvement stores to frozen-potato products. And as if that weren’t enough, there’s also Irving Oil, the family’s other major business operation. Irving employs more than 7,000 workers, owns more than 800 retail locations, and runs Canada’s largest refinery. And the place is so expansive that employees ride bicycles to travel inside the refinery. Not bad for a company that started in a small garage in 1924.
Growth, growth, and more growth seems to be the business model that the Irvings have followed. Now run by brothers James, Arthur, and John, the Irving empire has become increasingly dominating, and the rather secretive family has been able to take vertical integration to a whole new level. With such diverse industries in their portfolios, the Irving companies (all privately owned) can use the services and products of other Irving companies, ensuring that profits stay within the family.
With more than a century in business, the Irvings have dealt with their share of controversy: environmental criticisms, accusations of political patronage, and media monopolization complaints, to name a few. But guilty or not, one thing is for sure: There’s no slowing these guys down.