Photo Credit: FelixRo / BAFTA-Rich Fury / CBC-Kyle Bakx

Billionaires In Our Midst

They love to go there to fish, play golf, and entertain executives and clients

Some big money has turned Stuart Island, at the mouth of Bute Inlet into a rich man’s playground

According to a recent global survey, Canada has 53 billionaires. Of course, British Columbia has its fair share of the super-rich, but surprisingly very few call VanIse home.

Credit: Wikipedia / Pfly

That’s what makes tiny Stuart Island so unusual.

It’s a billionaire’s playground. At least three billionaires have property on the island which is named after John Stuart, the Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1762 to 1763.

Stuart lies about 40km northeast of Campbell River, between northern Vancouver Island and the British Columbia Coast, 

Its remoteness may be why some of the wealthiest people in the Pacific Northwest have estates and lodges on the privately-owned island. 

Getting to Stuart isn’t easy. There is no ferry service, so billionaires and other visitors arrive by floatplane or helicopter. The truly rich can commute on their yachts or private jets. That’s right, the billionaire’s refuge has a private airstrip, which is approximately 2100 feet long and does not appear on any aeronautical chart or in Canada’s official airport directory. 

The wealthiest billionaire on Stuart is Dennis Washington, the 87-year-old American industrialist and owner of The Washington Companies. Washington’s net worth is roughly $7 billion. He owns or co-owns a majority interest in Seaspan, Montana Rail Link, Montana Resources (a copper and molybdenum mine,) Dominion Diamond Mines, Aviation Partners Inc., and other companies. For decades, Washington has been entertaining guests at his Stuart estate and private golf course overlooking the Arran Rapids. His private yacht Attessa IV has also been seen moored nearby.

And he’s not the only billionaire on Stuart.

Washington’s neighbour is Dave Ritchie, the Kelowna-raised co-founder of Ritchie Bros Auctioneers.  Ritchie owns an estate, lodge and golf course on Stuart Island. His net worth is estimated to be around $1 billion. In 1955 the three Ritchie brothers took over the family furniture store in Kelowna. Afterwards, they got into auctions and eventually focused on used heavy machinery and equipment. Today the more than 50-year-old, publicly-traded Ritchie Bros Auctioneers is based in Burnaby and posted annual sales in 2020 of nearly $1.4 billion.

PACCAR Inc. has a corporate retreat on Stuart. It’s around the point from Dave Ritchie’s place on Big Bay.

Mark Pigott, great-grandson of the company’s founder, is the fourth generation Pigott to serve as executive chairman of PACCAR. Mark is a frequent visitor to the company’s corporate fishing lodge on Stuart Island.  Seattle-based PACCAR has its roots in the early 1900s when it manufactured railway and logging equipment. Today,PACCAR designs and builds trucks under the Peterbilt, Kenworth and DAF brands. In 2019PACCAR posted revenues of US$26 billion.  Mark is a well-known philanthropist and avid golfer  ​​He is a member of the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

So if you want to hang out around rich people you might drop into a pub in Uplands, Oak Bay or Metchosin. But if you want to rub elbows with billionaires you’ll need spend about $1,000 per night to stay at an exclusive lodge on Stuart Island.


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