Lino Saputo Jr: The big cheese

“I hope they don’t view me as ‘that billionaire from Canada’,” says Canadian billionaire Lino Saputo Jr.

Saputo, CEO of the giant cheese, milk and yogurt company that shares his name, is sitting in the private locker room he installed in the personal hockey arena he built next to the luxury auto club he owns in Montreal. It’s literally and figuratively as far away from the world of Australian dairy farming as you can get. Nevertheless, the “they” he’s referring to are farmers Down Under.

Saputo has been spending a lot of time in Australia lately. Last year, his company acquired the country’s largest dairy processor, a farmer-owned co-op called Murray Goulburn. To seal the deal, Saputo spent weeks criss-crossing thousands of kilometres of arid grasslands, making his pitch to farmers at town hall meetings. In some cases, he even drove directly to farms to sit at their kitchen tables and field questions one-on-one.

Which prompted my first question: What must those farmers think when Quebec’s richest man— his family’s stake in the company is worth $7 billion—shows up on their doorstep?

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