Thoroughbred horse racing is one of the oldest sporting events in America. The Preakness Stakes was founded in 1873, held on the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The race is one leg of the prestigious American Triple Crown. Belinda Stronach, Chairman, CEO & President of 1/ST, owner of the prestigious Preakness Stakes, speaks about her leadership and vision to transform this nearly 150-year-old sporting entertainment to attract and thrive with the next generation.
Angela Chan: Tell us about the early stages of your career.
Belinda Stronach: I began my career at Magna International Inc., a company that was founded by my father, Frank Stronach, in 1957. Magna is one of the largest suppliers of automotive systems and components globally, with more than 120,000 employees in 29 countries and over $30 billion in annual sales.
While it may sound like an easy street to work for your father, it was anything but and a different kind of challenge. Growing up, so to speak, in a family business, you encounter other impediments. I remember talking to a women’s business group more than a decade ago and describing not facing the glass ceiling but also the “family ceiling.” Those hard-to-quantify criteria you had to meet for success and promotion. I was shocked at the number of women who came up to me after, who worked in family businesses and said it perfectly described their situation.
I left Magna in 2011 after having served as Executive Vice-Chairman. While at Magna, I also served on the Board of Directors and as the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. I am proud that under my leadership, the company had record sales and profits each year, and its stock price nearly doubled in value. I experienced first-hand the harsh lessons of the global competitive challenge to Canadian businesses and served on the Ontario Task Force on Productivity, Competitiveness, and Economic Progress.
I have always been a big believer in the importance of public service. A healthy democracy needs people to have real choices. So, with that in mind, I jumped into the race to become the leader of one of Canada’s main political parties. Admittedly, people thought I was crazy at the time, but I worked hard and had a message that resonated, especially with young professional women. I didn’t win that race, but I came in a healthy second, which sent shock waves through the political establishment. Talk about a “male-dominated” world.