Lino Saputo Jr. leads a pretty hectic life so it took a bit of doing to squeeze in an hour or so of his time for an interview one morning in early September, before he took off on a business trip to Europe, where his namesake company, Saputo Inc., produces, markets and distributes a variety of cheeses, butter, spreads and oils as well as dairy ingredients. In the United Kingdom, Saputo is the largest manufacturer of branded cheese, but that’s just one of the markets where the company has become increasingly active since going public in 1997. It is also the top dairy processor in Australia, second-largest in Argentina and one of the top three cheese makers in the United States, positions won by an international acquisition spree rarely seen by a Canadian company, let alone one that could easily sit back and take advantage of this country’s dairy supply management system.
But that’s the direction that Saputo, and his father before him, have taken the Montreal-based company founded 65 years ago by Giuseppe Saputo, who had $500 in startup capital and a single bicycle to make deliveries. It’s clearly worked: the company is now one of the world’s 10 biggest dairy processors, with 65 facilities on four continents, and the family is reportedly worth $10.2 billion, making them the fifth-wealthiest in the country. Those numbers are just a few of the reasons why Saputo has been named Canada’s Outstanding CEO of the Year for 2019, the 30th anniversary of these awards.
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