Raggedy Sandy

A distracted and dishevelled bon vivant, Alexander Ross pioneered a whole new way of seeing the world of power and pinstripes

Alexander ‘Sandy’ Ross, founder of Canadian Business Magazine.

If you were holding auditions for the role of a business journalist you probably wouldn’t have chosen Sandy Ross.

Rather than the well-groomed management-type in the crisp blue suit, Sandy would have been the distracted, scruffy-looking guy standing beside him. The one with the big grin, the shock of brown hair, the unkempt suit (if he decided to wear one that day) and the genial, go get ’em manner of a happy schoolboy: “Sounds good,” “Great idea,” “Fooled ’em again!”

Not that he couldn’t perform. Sandy was a song-and-dance man at heart, “a journalistic Fred Astaire” in the words of his first wife. His initial shot at fame came in the form of a satirical song mocking British Columbia’s ruling Socreds, he’d penned in college, and he was definitely not cast in the mold of the analytical types who inhabit the dimly lit offices of the Report on Business. As a business journalist he was playing against type. When he died in 1993 at the age of 58, it was the end of a life imbued with an enormous theatricality: remarkable achievement, outlandish behaviour, reckless romance and a heartbreaking personal tragedy that may be the encryption key to the Ross paradox.

In the opening of The Risk Takers, his groundbreaking 1975 book about Canadian entrepreneurs, he could have been talking about himself when he wrote about a flamboyant mining promoter named Murray. A friend of Murray’s tries to articulate what motivates the businessman to do the seemingly reckless things he does in order to succeed. “‘What you guys are doing,’ says the friend, ‘is trying to defeat death. You’re trying to build monuments that’ll stay around longer than you do.’ But Murray had the last word. ‘It’s not about death and it’s not about monuments. It’s about living — living to the hilt….I enjoy everything I do. Everything.’”

[End of Part 1]

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