Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Ford Family Business

Toronto's Mayor Rob Ford has always presented himself to the public with the persona that he's "one of the sweaty, middle class masses".  In fact, this certainly does not appear to be the case, particularly when one digs a bit below the surface into the Ford family business.  There is some difficulty in doing this since the family business is privately owned but, in this posting, I will attempt to put the picture together using as many reliable sources as I can find.

Let's open with an interesting little discussion between Rob Ford and his brother Doug on their  now cancelled Toronto Newstalk 1010 radio talk show "The City" discussing the family business:


Way back in 1962, former Ontario cabinet minister Doug Ford Sr. and father to Rob and Doug Ford founded Deco Labels and Tags Limited.  Deco is currently owned by Doug Ford Holdings, a holding company owned by Doug Ford Jr, son of the founder.  Deco manufactures and sells pressure sensitive labels and tags for the food and beverage industries, health and beauty, household products and promotional items as well as assorted decals, magnets and barcode labels.  It currently has three plant locations in Toronto at 26 and 28 Greensboro Drive in Etobicoke, a relatively new one in California and one on the outskirts of Chicago, Illinois in Wood Dale that opened in the early part of the new millennium.  They also have sales offices scattered around the United States including one in Hollywood, Florida.  According to their website, Deco has grown into one of North America's leading label and tag manufacturing and sales companies.  The company's current President is Toronto City Councillor Douglas Ford and his brother Randy Ford is a co-owner.  Doug Ford's salary is not publicly available, however, to give him credit, according to this article, he donates his City Councillor's salary to charity.  For years, and at least until 2010, Rob Ford served as the company's Chief Financial Officer however, his name no longer appears on Deco's federal business profile, although there is some question as to whether or not he is still involved in the family business as shown in this story.

Here is the company's vision statement:

"Deco is committed to be one of the premiere label companies in the industry. Our goal is to maintain steady growth every year to ensure a viable on-going concern for the benefits of all stakeholders.

We work with our suppliers to achieve the most cost efficient way of delivering our products to our customers on a consistent basis without sacrificing quality and service. We remain at the forefront of technological advancements in order to be one of the leaders in the label industry at all times.

We recognize the value and importance of our employees. We are committed not only to their well being in compliance to the highest safety standards, but also to their growth and success in their career. The support and commitment of our employees is the cornerstone of our continual progress and success in the industry."

A December 2010 article published in Canadian Manufacturing provides us with a bit of a glimpse into the company's operations.  At that time, the company operated three manufacturing locations in Toronto, Chicago and Pennsaulken, New Jersey, employing a total of 250 people.  According to Doug Ford, the company was planning to expand into the U.S. south to enable the company to offer better customer service.  In 2010, Deco's production facility located in Etobicoke near Toronto's Pearson Airport was 50,000 square feet in size and the company employed nearly 70 people on a 24 hour/7 day a week production cycle.  Deco's business was growing by an average of 6 to 8 percent annually through the mid- to late-2000s  The company's then Vice President of Sales and Marketing Leonard Rudner claimed that increased production efficiencies had allowed the company to cut the turnaround time for new orders to two weeks from three and for repeat orders from two weeks to one.  Incidentally, according to his LinkIn page, Mr. Rudner worked at Deco for one year and seven months from May 2010 to November 2011.  

Since Deco is privately owned, it is very difficult to ascertain total sale revenue for Deco, however, in 2010, according to this article which quotes Rob Ford, sales were close to $100 million annually.

Let's look at some additional information.  Here is a look at Deco's retirement (401(k)) plan for its American workforce, showing the key information:


This tells us that in 2011, Deco's American operations had 48 employees participating in the company's 401(k) with 51 active, retired or separated employees.  According to this profile, Deco's sales revenue at its Chicago operation was $4 million and they had 46 employees.

Back in 2011, there was some question about a conflict of interest involving business that Deco had with the City of Toronto.  According to this report in the Toronto Star, in 2010, Deco printed $56,000 worth of stickers, tags and decals for the City of Toronto.  In fact, if you look carefully at this screen capture from Deco's website, you'll see that Deco produced decals and magnets for the Toronto Transit Commission:


As well, back in 2010, the Mayor's election financial statement revealed that the family business billed the campaign over $150,000 for services out of the total $1.29 million that Rob Ford spent to get elected. This included the provision of deferred payment of invoices totalling $119,372 for products and services rendered.  While this was not considered a conflict of interest, it certainly has an odour that is less than pleasing.  

More recently, there was a bit of a kerfuffle over the purchase of the Mayor's business cards from his family's printing business.  Here's the invoice for Rob Ford's business cards which he purchased from Deco:


It cost a total of $1579.15 for 20,600 business cards from Deco, an average of 7.66 cents per card (tax included), largely because the cards are double-sided and feature two colour printing.  This compares to 3.6 cents per card for the standard city business cards that feature blue letters on a white background when ordered from the city printer.  Again, to Rob Ford's credit, he wrote a cheque for $4000 to cover the cost of these cards once it was discovered as shown in this letter:

On top of covering the cost of the business cards, the cheque covered the cost of newspaper subscriptions for his office and mileage charges.  Once again, the connection between Rob Ford's office and the family business looks a wee bit questionable at best.


As I noted at the beginning of this posting, it is rather difficult to put together a full picture of the Ford family business which makes it difficult to assess any conflict of interest that may or may not occur.  On the other hand, while Rob Ford likes to cultivate the appearance of having a working class background, from what we can find in the public domain, the size and scope of the Deco Labels and Tags business would suggest otherwise.

5 comments:

  1. Icky. Is this why you nabbed a bus, Robbie?

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