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Prem Watsa announced as 2016 IDEA recipient

December 4, 2015 — 
Prem Watsa

Mr. Prem Watsa

When Prem Watsa left India as an orphan in 1972 he had just $8 in his pocket. He is now one of Canada’s most acclaimed business leaders, and the recipient of the University of Manitoba’s 2016 International Distinguished Entrepreneur Award (IDEA).

“I’m truly honoured and humbled to be chosen for such an award and to be included in a group of so many special business leaders and global personalities,” Watsa says. “While given to one person, awards like this truly reflect the team and support system in place at the companies and organizations that we are part of.  I share this award and applaud those that I work with now and in past.”

Watsa is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, Canada’s largest property and casualty insurer. Since 1985, Fairfax has compounded book value by over 21% annually. Fairfax has total assets of approximately US$43 billion, revenues of approximately US$10 billion and common shareholders’ equity of approximately US $9 billion.

The award will be presented to Watsa at a gala dinner in Winnipeg at the RBC Convention Centre on June 7, 2016, where he will receive a gold IDEA medallion, custom-made by the Royal Canadian Mint. Chris Couture, Partner, Audit and Assurance Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, will act as Master of Ceremonies of the 2016 IDEA Dinner.

“It is very special to me to be given this recognition from the community of Manitoba.  I have conducted business in Manitoba, and had the opportunity invest in Manitoba,” Watsa says. “I have also been fortunate to have travelled to many places around the world and I can tell you that Manitoba is truly a very special place.  The passion from and for the community is remarkable and the willingness to succeed is truly inspirational.”

IDEA is presented to outstanding entrepreneurs by the University of Manitoba Business School Foundation and its Associates and Young Associates who are committed to ensuring that the Asper School of Business remains one of the leading schools in Canada. The Foundation supports and promotes the interaction between the business community, faculty and students through programs and events including IDEA.

The University established IDEA in 1984 to honour leaders who have achieved outstanding entrepreneurial and business success, and who have made an exemplary contribution to global economic life.

“The University of Manitoba is honoured to recognize the achievements of an important Canadian business leader and philanthropist, Prem Watsa,” says David Barnard, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Manitoba. “He stands apart as a role model for those who value a good education, work hard to achieve goals, think outside the box, and seek to contribute to the economic life of this country and communities around the world.”

Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited is a generous supporter of student awards at the University of Manitoba.

“Despite being one of the most acclaimed business leaders in the country, Prem remains a humble and reserved leader who never forgets his values, nor where he comes from. We are honoured to have the opportunity to recognize him for his significant achievements,” says Arni Thorsteinson, chair of the IDEA Committee and President of Shelter Canadian Properties Limited. “Prem is commonly referred to as the Warren Buffett of Canada…there is much to be learned from the challenges he experienced on his journey from orphaned immigrant to financial giant.”

Dean Michael Benarroch of the I.H. Asper School of Business applauded the recipient choice: “I am delighted that we have the opportunity to recognize a man who has had an impact on people and communities all around the world, and who demonstrates that success can be achieved with hard work, discipline and the willingness to take calculated risks.”

“RBC is proud to continue our support of the annual IDEA Gala as part of our ongoing partnership with the University of Manitoba Business School Foundation and the Asper School of Business,” says Kim Ulmer, Regional President for Manitoba, Saskatchewan and North Western Ontario. “As a strong community supporter, we are extremely pleased to join in recognizing and celebrating Mr. Watsa.”

Mr. Watsa joins past distinguished IDEA recipients including, Albert D. Cohen, O.C., Israel H. Asper, O.C., Q.C., Richard Branson, Paul Desmarais, Akio Morita, Ross Perot, Heather Reisman, Dame Anita Roddick, Gerald Schwartz, Jim Sinegal, Stu Clark, Chip Wilson, Linda Hasenfratz and last year’s recipient, David Thomson.

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