Frank Stronach, (born 6 September 1932) is an Austrian and Canadian businessman and politician.
He is the founder of Magna International, an international automotive parts company based in Aurora, Ontario, Canada, Granite Real Estate, and Stronach Group, which specializes in horse-racing. With an estimated net worth of $CAD 3.12 billion (as of November 2013), Stronach was ranked by Canadian Business as the 19th wealthiest Canadian.
In 2011, he entered Austrian politics: founding the Stronach Institute to campaign for classical liberalism and against the euro. In 2012, he founded the political party Team Stronach for Austria.
Early life and family
Born as Franz Strohsack in Kleinsemmering, Styria, Austria, to working-class parents, Stronach's childhood was marked by the Great Depression and the Second World War. At age 14, he left school to apprentice as a tool and die maker. In 1954, he arrived in Montreal, Quebec, and later moved to Ontario.
He married Elfriede Sallmutter, a fellow Austrian. They have two children: Belinda Stronach, a former Liberal (and previously Conservative) MP and former CEO of Magna, and Andrew Stronach, who is involved in thoroughbred horse racing, via the Adena Springs Farms breeding operations. He divides his time between Oberwaltersdorf, Austria, and Aurora, Ontario.
In 1956, Stronach started his first business, Multimatic Investments Ltd., in the old manufacturing district of Toronto. In 1969, his firm acquired its first automotive parts contract and merged with Magna Electronics. In 1973, the name was converted from Multimatic Investments Ltd to Magna International Ltd. Over the following decades, after several mergers and acquisitions, his business gradually became the major force it is today. Stronach, who is currently the non-executive chairman of Magna International, holds multiple-voting shares of the company, which gives him majority voting power over issues brought to shareholder vote. Although he controls the voting power among Magna's shareholders, Stronach owns only 4% of Magna's equity. His pay packages over the past few years have been between $30 and 50 million CAD. In October 2018, he sued the Stronach Group.
Activities in Austria
In 1986, Stronach founded Magna Europa, with headquarters in Oberwaltersdorf, Lower Austria. He started to become a notable figure also in the Austrian public in the late 1990s. In 1997, he announced the project to build an amusement park in Ebreichsdorf, which would have included a giant globe representing the earth that would have been 110 m high and visible from every point in the Viennese Basin. The project failed due to several public opposition.
In 1998, Magna took over Steyr-Daimler-Puch. In the newly merged company Magna Steyr, he successfully prevented the establishment of works councils, in violation of Austrian labour law by reprimanding workers who were cooperating with unions. In 2003, Stronach also planned to take over VOEST, but this project failed. In 2004, a leisure center and the show jumping site Magna Racino were inaugurated at Ebreichsdorf.
Thoroughbred horse racing
Stronach is the owner of Stronach Group which specializes in horse-racing entertainment and owns and operates some of the most prominent racetracks in the United States. Among his early successes was his partnership with Nelson Bunker Hunt in the filly Glorious Song who was voted the 1980 Sovereign Award for Canadian Horse of the Year.
His horses have won the Queen's Plate in 1994 and 1997, the Belmont Stakes in 1997, and the Preakness Stakes in 2000. His horse Ghostzapper won several major races including the 2004 Breeders' Cup Classic, was voted the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, and named the World's Top Ranked Horse for 2004. In Canada, Stronach and/or his Stronach Stables has won the Sovereign Award for Outstanding Owner nine times. In the United States, he earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Owner in 1998, 1999, and 2000. In 2000, he won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder. He subsequently established Adena Springs Farms which owns horse breeding farms in Kentucky, Florida and Canada and won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Stronach was a candidate of the Liberal Party of Canada in the 1988 federal election for the riding of York—Simcoe, but was defeated by the Progressive Conservative John Cole. Magna International has also been noted for its connections to the Ontario PC Party and the Ontario Liberal Party.
These connections were most famously exhibited when Progressive Conservative Premier Ernie Eves and Finance Minister Janet Ecker delivered the 2003 Ontario budget from a Magna plant. This led to accusations that the government was violating centuries of parliamentary tradition, and is generally believed to have had a negative impact on the Progressive Conservatives in the next provincial election.
In 2011, Stronach entered Austrian politics, proposing the establishment of a new political party: a "Citizens' Alliance" advocating tax, health, and education reform. In November 2011, he called for an 'intellectual revolution' in Austria, suggesting that he would be willing to fund a student-led political party.
Stronach's plans to form a new party gained prominence in 2012. He called for a flat tax of 20%, a reduction in bureaucracy by 10% over five years, and a balanced budget. He has ruled out leading the party himself.
Stronach has argued that Austria should stay in the EU, but that the euro was a 'monstrosity'.
His programme has been compared to the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ); Stronach has recently admired the BZÖ's leader Josef Bucher as the only politician in Austria that represents economic liberalism. This led to suggestions that Stronach would take over the BZÖ ahead of the 2013 elections so as to give his movement seats in Parliament.
The new party was launched in September 2012. A Gallup poll in August 2012 indicated that it could receive 8% of the vote. Four MPs – Gerhard Köfer of the Social Democratic Party, Elisabeth Kaufmann-Bruckberger of the BZÖ and independents Robert Lugar and Erich Tadler – have agreed to join the party. The endorsement of at least three members of the National Council is required for a party to compete in general elections (alternatively, a quorum of 2,600 signatures in support of the party's candidacy have to be collected).
Stronach is also interested in football. He was the main sponsor of FK Austria Vienna from 1999 until 2005. In spite of a budget three times larger than its closest competitors and the fact that Stronach was at the same time the president of the Austrian Bundesliga, the club managed to win the Austrian Championship only twice. Due to opposition among prominent members of FK Austria Wien, Stronach decided on 21 November 2005 to withdraw from the club. On 24 November 2005, he decided not to seek re-election as president of the Austrian Bundesliga.
Stronach also founded the Frank Stronach Football Academy in Hollabrunn to train and educate adolescent players. The academy was closed in 2009.
On 6 September 2005, Stronach announced that he and Magna International were committing $2 million to start a model community for people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. The Toronto Star reported that "Magna Entertainment Corp. is [currently] providing housing for about 260 evacuees from the New Orleans area at a racetrack training facility in Palm Beach County, Florida and will move them to a new community in November. Auto-parts giant Magna International Inc. and MEC are scouting for about 500 to 1,000 acres (2 to 4 km2) in an area of Baton Rouge in Louisiana to set up trailers and infrastructure. "[W]e would like to build a small community where we would try to be sponsors for the next five to seven years", Stronach said in an interview with The Star. Further details were announced on 6 October 2005, and that the new development would be officially known as Magnaville. Later the name Canadaville was adopted.
In 1999, Stronach was made a member of the Order of Canada. In December 1997, Stronach was awarded an honorary Doctor of Engineering by Kettering University.