Sherry Brydson: Canada’s richest woman you’ve never heard of

Until this morning, Sherry Brydson was just a very rich woman content to live her life out of the public spotlight and far away from the media glare that made her fortune.

Now, she is known as the wealthiest woman in Canada, worth an estimated $6.5 billion, according to Bloomberg.

All that cherished anonymity is long gone.

A quick Internet search will now take you to aerial images of her mansion in Victoria, B.C. and to stories of her various philanthropic endeavours.

What you won’t find is much information about Brydson’s personal life. She has clearly learned a trick or two over the years about how to stay under the radar. Basic facts such as her age, marital status or whether she has children all remain a closely-guarded secret.

“Most people don’t know she exists,” Trevor Cole, a writer who has covered the family told Bloomberg. “People who read the paper know the name Thomson and know that they are rich people, but beyond that they have no sense of them.”

Here’s what we can tell you about this remarkably wealthy woman:

  • Sherry Brydson is the granddaughter of Roy Thomson, the first Baron of Fleet Street and the family force behind a media empire that today includes the Globe and Mail and Thomson Reuters.
  • The Thomson family was listed as the richest family in Canada in 2012 by Canadian Business magazine, with a combined family fortune of $20.1 billion.
  • Brydson herself owns a 23 per cent stake in Woodbridge Co., the firm that manages the family assets, according to Bloomberg.
  • She also has her fingers in various entrepreneurial endeavours, including a turboprop manufacturer in B.C., Ontario’s Moose FM radio network, and a hotel developer in Nova Scotia.

In 2009, Brydson donated $5 million to the YWCA Toronto in memory of her mother, Irma Thomson Brydson, who died in 1966. The money, one of the largest gifts to a service organization in Canada, went towards the construction of an affordable housing project for women and children.

A supporter of the arts, Brydson later held a fundraiser for the same cause at her Elmwood Spa in Toronto featuring the art work of painter Charles Pachter.

“Sherry Brydson believes that well-being comes from a balance of inner and outer beauty, as well as living within a healthy environment and society,” according to a media release issued in connection with the event.

In 2006, Brydson and cousin David Thomson paid $5.7 million for a collection of sacred Tsimshian native artworks after the Royal BC Museum in Victoria was denied a grant to buy the pieces.

The pair later funded a national tour to show the works publicly.

“These treasures were intended to be passed from generation to generation. The way they were taken was one of the biggest mistakes that was ever made, and has been repaid,” Brydson told the Globe and Mail at the time.

According to Bloomberg’s ranking, Brydson is the third richest person in Canada, behind her cousin, David, head of Thomson Corp. and owner of the Winnipeg Jet's hockey team. Legendary B.C. business baron, Jimmy Pattison, won top title.