Samuel Belzberg, a feared corporate raider of the 1980s who perfected the contentious practice known as greenmail to build one of Canada’s foremost family dynasties, then reinvented himself as a successful private-equity investor, died on Friday night in a hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was 89.
He had suffered a stroke, his daughter Wendy Belzberg said in confirming the death.
Apart from his business career, Mr. Belzberg, who lived in Vancouver, was widely known for his philanthropy devoted to Jewish causes, among them the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, one of the world’s leading organizations dedicated to Holocaust research and education. He was its founding chairman.
“Sam was both a visionary and proud Jew,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, who founded the center.
Mr. Belzberg will be remembered primarily as a self-made businessman — a get-out-of-my-way entrepreneur who rose from the Canadian prairie to the pinnacle of the corporate world.
Starting out by selling used cars in Alberta in the 1940s, he went on to join his brothers, Hyman and William, in 1963 in founding what became First City Financial, a financial services giant and holding company, originally based in Vancouver, that would be used by the family for its high-profile corporate takeovers.