Rick George recalls the Suncor-Petro Canada merger

'It’s the largest merger done in Canada as of that date.'

January 09, 2013

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“It’s the largest merger done in Canada as of that date. I think it still is.”
Illustration Katy Lemay

There were about six or seven things that we were quite clear about from Day 1, and those were not going to get debated. There were other issues on which we did allow freer discussion, which was important because certainly Petro-Canada did some things better than Suncor. They were probably a little better at operating refineries. Then of course there were some things that Suncor did better.

[Petro-Canada was] much better and much bigger in terms of retail across the country. They had two good refineries– Edmonton and Montreal. We had one in Sarnia and one in Denver. If you think about getting to a size and scale that matters in a business where size and scale does have an advantage, it was just that the assets fit really well together.

You were able to eliminate a lot of overhead. That increased cash flow of the combined companies. That enabled us to go back to spending capital and to growing. You’ll remember that this was done at the bottom of the last recession in 2009, so it enabled us to come out of that recession in much better shape.

You’ve got to remember, when you’re going through that, it also means you’re going to lay off 1,000 people and there’s lots of change, so you know there’s a lot of work ahead. And you also know that for people in the organizations, both of them, you just create a lot of uncertainty. I think the time to party is probably after you reduce that uncertainty [and] people know their roles.

It’s the largest merger done in Canada as of that date. I think it still is. I think we’re all very proud of it. I know I am, and I know that things worked out really well for the Petro-Canada people as well. The first [attempt at merging the two companies] failed. It fell apart. On the second go-around, what [Petro-Canada chairman] Brian MacNeill and [president and chief executive officer] Ron Brenneman said they were going to do, they did. It was one of those things where they were good for their word. – As told to Jeff Lewis

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