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At times during his early years, Arthur Labatt felt like an observer of his own life: What was he supposed to do next? Where would his decisions take him? How would it all turn out?

Labatt was born into privilege, the youngest child of John Sackville Labatt, who, with his brother, Hugh, ran the family-owned brewery John Labatt Limited in London, Ontario. Arthur spent his youth looking forward to, and enjoying, summers at Port Stanley on Lake Erie and Camp Ahmek in Algonquin Park. He was only vaguely aware of the shadow cast over his family by the famous kidnapping of his father in 1934.

His education, however, took him on a decidedly zigzag itinerary through an assortment of Roman Catholic and public schools. And by the time it was his turn to join Labatt's, his father had died, the firm was on its way to being sold, and he had taken a detour from his studies at McGill University, becoming a chartered accountant under the auspices of Clarkson, Gordon & Company.

Things began to make more sense to him after a period of career moves at Clarkson's and then investment dealer McLeod Young Weir. After four years in Paris selling Canadian securities to institutional investors in Europe for MYW, he got his feet wet in the insurance and trust industries and then, with portfolio manager Bob Krembil and mutual fund salesman Michael Axford, started a mutual fund company, Trimark Investment Management Inc., which they eventually sold to U.K.-based AMVESCAP (now called Invesco).

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