Arthur Irving no longer chair of Irving Oil, fuels more speculation about

Arthur Irving is no longer in his leadership role at Irving Oil, and his daughter, Sarah Irving, is no longer part of the leadership team, according to the company’s website, fuelling further speculation about the future of one of New Brunswick’s largest employers.

Irving, 93, who was chair of the Saint John-based board of directors, is now listed as chairman emeritus, while Sarah Irving, who was executive vice-president and widely seen as his heir apparent, is no longer listed.

Company spokesperson Katherine d’Entremont did not respond to requests by email and phone on Tuesday and Wednesday for comments.

The leadership changes come in the midst of a strategic review that’s evaluating “a series of options” related to the company’s future, including “a full or partial sale.”

“No decisions have been made about where this strategic review may lead,” Arthur Irving, Sarah Irving and Irving Oil president Ian Whitcomb, said in a statement last June, when the strategic review was announced.

A portrait of a woman wearing a black blazer and black top, with her hair pulled back, standing at a podium, speaking into a microphone.
Sarah Irving, the former executive vice-president of Irving Oil, is pictured here at Port Days in 2017, when she told attendees her grandfather ‘had a vision’ for the company when he started it, and all he hoped it would be. ‘He was thinking big, but his roots and his team would always be right here at home,’ she said. (CBC)

“Considerations will be given to a new ownership structure, a full or partial sale, or a change in the portfolio of our assets and how we operate them,” they said.

With 4,000 employees, the privately held company is one of the most powerful in the province.

‘Transition time’

Premier Blaine Higgs, a former Irving Oil executive, who worked for the company for more than 30 years, told CBC Wednesday he is surprised and saddened by news of the leadership changes.

“I think [it] shows it’s a transition time for the business,” he said.

“I guess they’re making big decisions about their future.”

In June, Higgs suggested that the federal carbon tax and clean fuel standards were one of the reasons the family was looking at selling. On Wednesday, he pointed again to the federal climate policies, saying they “have obviously changed the direction in many ways.”

An aerial view of the Irving Oil property feature large barrels with the letters spelling Irving.
Irving Oil’s Saint John refinery is Canada’s largest, processing about 320,000 barrels a day and producing gasoline, diesel, heating oil, jet fuel, propane and asphalt. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

Founded in 1924 by Arthur’s father, K.C. Irving, Irving Oil operates Canada’s largest refinery in Saint John, which processes about 320,000 barrels a day and is New Brunswick’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.

The company has “more than 900 fuelling locations and a network of distribution terminals spanning Eastern Canada and New England,” according to its website.

It also operates Ireland’s only refinery, Whitegate, which processes up to 75,000 barrels a day.

Forbes Magazine listed Arthur Irving as the eighth richest person in Canada in 2023, with an estimated net worth of $5.7 billion. The Bloomberg Billionaires…

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