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New owners in driver's seat as Bison Transport hitches up with James Richardson and Sons

a man wearing sunglasses and standing in front of a truck: Robert Penner, chief executive officer at Bison Transport, said the acquisition of the business by James Richardson and Sons Ltd. sets up the trucking firm for success down the road. (C) Ian Froese/CBC Robert Penner, chief executive officer at Bison Transport, said the acquisition of the business by James Richardson and Sons Ltd. sets up the trucking firm for success down the road.

A Winnipeg trucking firm that has a plan for the long haul has been sold to a business that knows about longevity.  Bison Transport CEO Robert Penner said the sale of the company to James Richardson and Sons Ltd. -- one of Canada's largest private companies -- is the right fit. "They are 164 years old.

They don't do anything for the short term," Penner said. "They are strong, positive community-minded owners, no different than the Jessiman family has been for us." The Jessiman family started Bison Transport in 1969, and felt James Richardson and Sons -- another Winnipeg-owned and family-run business -- was the right match for their trucking company.

They quietly approached the Richardson family last year about a possible sale. The purchase was announced this week. "From our perspective, this is a win-win scenario for everybody," said Penner, who has spent 30 years with Bison.

"The long-term future of this business has been secured as a Canadian company and as a Manitoba-based enterprise." The financial terms weren't disclosed, but the deal is significant. Bison Transport has reported annual revenues in the range of £850 million, Penner said.

The trucking firm is one of Canada's largest, with more than 3,700 employees and contractors operating a fleet of 2,100 trucks and 6,000 trailers across North America.

a truck that is driving down the street: James Richardson and Sons Ltd., which is one of Canada's biggest private companies, has taken the wheel at Bison Transport as the new owners. (C) Gary Solilak/CBC James Richardson and Sons Ltd., which is one of Canada's biggest private companies, has taken the wheel at Bison Transport as the new owners.

Bison has an aggressive five-year plan to grow by 50 per cent. The company is targeting annual revenues of £1.5 billion in the next five years. That's where James Richardson and Sons, a multi-billion dollar enterprise, can help.

Penner said Bison can now access the capital it needs. "We've been self-funded our entire journey here over the past 52 years. We've managed from our own means," Penner said.

"In these times, there are some tremendous opportunities available to grow the business and we want to be able to put ourselves in a position that we could take advantage of those opportunities." Bison sees areas for growth in its logistical and intermodal business, as well as cross-border, domestic U.S. and Mexico operations, he said. Hartley Richardson, president and CEO of James Richardson and Sons, said his family goes back with the Jessimans for generations.

"It's always wonderful when you can have two private companies going family to family," he said. The company saw buying the trucking firm as "another leg to the stool" for the diversified conglomerate that already has a stake in grain shipping, agri-food, real estate and wealth management, said Richardson.

Expansion plans

Richardson said his company wouldn't have put a bid together if it didn't see a potential for growth.  No layoffs or consolidation are in the plans, he said.

"It's not going to happen in this case, because we don't have any other trucking and logistics businesses in our portfolio."

Terry Shaw, executive director of the Manitoba Trucking Association, is encouraged to see the investment in a Manitoba-run businesd like Bison.

"The acquisition by James Richardson provides them that capital comfort, that financial kind of comfort ... and focus potentially less on where are the funds coming from and more on, 'Hey, who are we acquiring?' ... or 'How are we going to grow?'"

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