Through his entrepreneurial spirit, business leadership skills, and commitment to community, David McLean has built a large and diverse family enterprise, The McLean Group of Companies; led one of Canada’s iconic corporations, CN Rail, through its most transformative period; and contributed generously to many worthy community causes.
Born, raised, and educated in Alberta (BA, LL.B, University of Alberta), Mr. McLean moved to Vancouver in 1968 to practice law and expand his business interests. Over the next several decades he completed numerous residential and commercial real estate projects in Vancouver and throughout North America, including a 35-acre land assembly in east Vancouver, now the home of The McLean Group’s Vancouver Film Studios (VFS).
A major player in the North American film and television industry, VFS hosts annual productions valued at over $500 million. Other operating companies in The McLean Group include Blackcomb Aviation, a charter helicopter company, and Signal Systems Inc., a company specializing in voice-over-internet, wireless, and radio communications systems. Operational leadership of The McLean Group has been successfully transferred to Mr. McLean’s sons, Jason and Sacha.
Mr. Mclean was a Director of CN Rail from 1979 to 1986, and returned as Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1994 to 2014. He is the longest-serving Chair in the company’s history, and was named Chairman Emeritus on his retirement. He helped lead the company through its transition from a crown corporation to a private corporation, which was completed in November 1995. At $2.26 billion, it was the largest Initial Public Offering in Canadian history. His fellow Directors re-elected him as Chairman each year thereafter, and the company’s market capitalization has multiplied 29 times to $68 billion today. During Mr. McLean’s time as Chair, CN transformed itself from a money-losing Crown conglomerate, to become North America’s most streamlined, profitable and efficient freight rail operator, a model for the industry.
Mr. McLean has chaired and served on several corporate boards in addition to CN. He was chair of Concord Pacific Group Inc., Coastland Wood Industries Inc., and Westech Information Systems Inc. He was a director of DeHavilland Aircraft of Canada and Nu West Development Corporation.
Mr. McLean has played an active role in community development, especially in the fields of business, education and healthcare. He has chaired the Vancouver Board of Trade, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the UBC Board of Governors, the Board of the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, the Capital Campaign of the University of Alberta, the Canadian Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Canadian Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Charter for Business. His family’s McLean McCuaig Foundation has made many generous donations to education and healthcare institutions in B.C. and Alberta and other parts of Canada.
Mr. McLean has received numerous awards and honors including: Honorary Degrees from UBC, SFU, University of Alberta and Royal Roads University; the Order of British Columbia; Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors; The Rix Award for Engaged Corporate Citizenship; an original inductee as a Distinguished Alumni of The University of Alberta; the Distinguished Leadership Award from SFU; and inductee into the Alberta High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
He has written a book on his life published in 2014 entitled “A Road Taken.”