Saputo and our main offices

There was sun life. Then the Royal Bank, Canadian Pacific and Bell Canada. Could Saputo be added to this list of big companies that have deflated their Montreal headquarters?

Posted at 6:30am

My colleague Julien Arsenault’s detailed report fears that. Of Saputo’s six top executives, two now work in Florida and three others own a condo there and spend a lot of time there.

Imagine if even the Deputy CEO, Lino Saputo Jr., has relocated to Florida and works full-time since opening the Miami office in June 2021! And all these beautiful people have been getting paid in dollars for a year now.

Florida has gained such importance that it would be the meeting point for international Saputo executives from Australia, Great Britain, Canada, the United States and Argentina.

As for the Canadian dairy division, its chief manager relocated from Quebec to Ontario two years ago, although Quebec has a large proportion of Canadian factories.

Isn’t that worrying? A multinational company is of course well advised to have administrative offices in its main markets. Often these offices are located near factories or customers, as was the case with Bombardier in Germany before the Montreal company sold its train division.

But as a rule, strategic positions are located in a central headquarters. General management, finance, human resources, legal and corporate affairs ultimately reside in this single decision-making center. Important strategic meetings are also held there, although telecommuting practices have changed.

As is well known, these local centers are essential for the vitality of a metropolis. They bring together high-level jobs, in addition to offering contracts for the local network of lawyers, accountants, publicists and other consultants, to which donations to the community are added.

Saputo employs 39% of its employees in the United States, but choosing Florida doesn’t appear to be motivated by the proximity of its dairies, which are primarily located in Wisconsin. With its climate it has to be said that Florida is the favorite of snowbirds Quebec and Saputo Quebec executives are no different from the rest of the population, many own condominiums there.

Aside from the sun, Florida has another major benefit for any business looking to set up shop there: low income taxes. The highest marginal income tax rate is 37% in Florida, compared to 53.3% in Quebec. And again, the maximum is only imposed above an income of $628,300 in Florida versus $216,500 in Quebec. Talk to hockey players…

Saputo denies leaving Montreal for Miami. The multinational cheese company says in an email that “most members of its executive team live in Quebec,” noting in its June circular that 300 employees work at its Montreal headquarters.

“Donations and sponsorships in Quebec (4.4 million), where our historical roots extend, account for approximately 54% of our giving globally,” the company said in the newsletter.

Lino Saputo Jr. is also one of the co-chairs of this fundraiser for Concordia University, I noticed.

In addition, may I add, Saputo’s 11-member board includes 6 directors from Quebec, 4 from the rest of Canada and 1 from the United States.

In short, Saputo is not yet an American.

Then why worry? Because once the move toward Florida is in full swing, it will be difficult to slow it down. Montreal is not favored by the climate, nor by taxes, nor by the new Law 96, which obliges foreigners to learn French in six months.

Bell Canada (BCE) is an eloquent example of this slow erosion of a Montreal decision-making center. Here, more precisely in L’Île-des-Sœurs, the company still has its official headquarters. But only one of its leaders has his primary residence in Quebec; the others are basically in Toronto.

See the development. In 1997, 9 of Bell’s 10 most senior executives lived in Quebec. That proportion had dwindled to 3 out of 13 in 2011, and today Bell has just one of its 13 senior executives in Quebec. In short, in 25 years Bell’s decision center has moved from Montreal to Toronto.

Saputo does not have the same profile as Bell or the Royal Bank. It has a controlling shareholder with a strong presence in Montreal and management in Quebec. But when a company of this size –4e Quebec companies on the stock exchange matter in terms of revenue – externally it’s something to worry about.

Tyrone Hodgson

Incurable food practitioner. Tv lover. Award-winning social media maven. Internet guru. Travel aficionado.

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