In memory of those who have Crossed the Bar


Henry Clifford Hatch


Lieutenant-Commander, RCNVR


Born: 30 Apr 1916, Toronto, Ontario


Died: 23 September 2006, Toronto, Ontario


HATCH, Henry Clifford - Liquour Distiller, he followed in his father's footsteps and took a business built on supplying bootleggers and turned it into a roaring success called Hiram Walker -- Was Scottish whisky maker Tommy Dewar thinking of Henry Clifford Hatch when he said "success is merely a matter of buying your experience cheap and selling it at a profit"? Cliff Hatch followed in his father's footsteps as head of Hiram Walker, Canada's second-largest liquor distiller (after Seagram), and made the liquor trade in this country as respectable as it could get. That wasn't always easy, given that the Hatch family rose to prominence in the heyday of bootlegging in the United States. But through business practices that may now seem quaint, harkening to a time when a person's word was his bond, Mr. Hatch cemented an upstanding reputation through tough but always civil competition, anchored by his deep Roman Catholic faith. Besides, he sure sold some fine hooch, namely, the ubiquitous Canadian Club rye whisky, Ballantine's Scotch, Kahlua and Tia Maria liqueurs, and Courvoisier cognac. In many ways, Mr. Hatch's career paralleled that of the other great Canadian liquor barons, the Bronfmans and their signature brand, Seagram. Mr. Hatch's father, Harry, was archrivals with the Bronfman patriarch, Sam, but only in business. Cliff Hatch, notes his son, chaired Mr. Sam's 80th birthday party in 1971. Mr. Hatch also had kind things to say when the Bronfman family's Fairview Corp. entered into a 50-50 partnership with the Toronto-Dominion Bank to build the Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower in downtown Toronto. At the time, he was serving on the bank's board. Mr. Hatch was remembered as a gentleman both in and out of the boardroom. A favourite son of Windsor, Ontario, where Hiram Walker and Sons Ltd. still fronts the Detroit River, he gave generously to a variety of charitable and civic causes. On his retirement, Hiram Walker employed 5,000 people worldwide, and annual profits were $250-million (U.S.). "He was a wonderful fellow, an industry leader and a good friend," said Charles Bronfman. "My father and Harry Hatch had a great feud going for many years, but they built great businesses, so Cliff Hatch and I could afford to compete as Friends. I told him there's nothing I enjoyed more than switching somebody from Canadian Club to [Seagram's] V.O. and he laughed and said, 'There's nothing I enjoy more than the reverse.' Neither of us wanted to put the other out of business. We worked as competitors, and as very good Friends. "But much more important to me, frankly, he was a fine human being." The groundwork was laid by Mr. Hatch's father during Prohibition in the United States. His father had tended bar in some tough saloons in eastern Ontario and ran a liquor store in Whitby, Ontario Harry Hatch made his money, though, first by going into the mail-order booze business and then by coming to the attention of Montreal tobacco-and-liquor magnate Sir Mortimer Davis, who hired the young go-getter as sales manager at his Corby whisky plant. Within two years, production went from 500 gallons a month to 50,000 gallons. Historian Bill Hunt, author of Booze, Boats and Billions, relates that, at about the same time, Sir Mortimer paid Mr. Hatch $1 for every case of whisky he could sell to American bootleggers. Mr. Hatch, his brother Herb, and future distiller Larry McGuiness recruited a fleet of fisherman to ferry the liquid gold through the Thousand Islands in an operation that came to be known as "Hatch's Navy." Harry Hatch prospered and, in 1923, he and some Toronto investors paid $1.5-million for the idle Gooderham and Worts, which had been the country's largest distiller. Three years later, the descendants of Hiram Walker, a Detroit grain merchant and father of Canadian Club whisky who died in 1899, sold the family concern to the elder Mr. Hatch for $14-million. Mr. Hatch merged his companies into Hiram Walker-Gooderham and Worts, headquartered in Walkerville, Ontario, now part of Windsor, and was dubbed "the king of Canadian distillers." By the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the elder Mr. Hatch had built the world's biggest distillery in Peoria, Illinois, capable of producing 50 million gallons of whisky a year. In 1937, he acquired Ballantine's Scotch Whisky, and just before the Second World War, built a huge distillery in Dumbarton, Scotland. His son, meantime, had been sent to boarding school in Montreal to learn French. He was 8. After high school at Saint Michael's College School in Toronto, Mr. Hatch considered studying for the Catholic priesthood. But, at his father's urging, he became a travelling salesman, at 17, for the T.G. Bright wine company, which the senior Mr. Hatch bought in 1933. Four years later, his son moved to Windsor to begin his ascent at Hiram Walker. In 1940, the younger Mr. Hatch personally received a British royal warrant from Lord Chamberlain at Buckingham Palace for Hiram Walker to purvey its goods in the Royal Court. Also that year, Mr. Hatch enlisted with the Royal Canadian Navy. He served in corvettes on convoys that escorted fighting ships across the treacherous North Atlantic. It was dangerous work: At the height of the U-boat campaign, as many as half of the ships were sunk. Mr. Hatch served on three escorts. He was lieutenant commander on HMCS NAPANEE and captain on HMCS DRUMMONDVILLE and on HMCS VILLE DE QUEBEC. While leaving Halifax Harbour one day, a semaphore message signalled him that his wife, Joan, had given birth to a son two weeks earlier. He saw the worst of war up close but kept a stoic silence, recalled H. Clifford Hatch Jr. Instead, "his stories about the war were funny. He never talked about death and horror and the number of men he saw die." Harry Hatch died in 1946. Author Peter C. Newman relates in his book The Bronfman Dynasty that, a few weeks later, the Hatch family received a "sizable" offer for their controlling interest in Hiram Walker-Gooderham and Worts that was believed to have come from the Bronfmans. It was turned down flat. Cliff Hatch, meantime, built on his father's innovations. Brands, for example, had come to be an important aspect of whisky marketing and, following Prohibition and the Second World War, consumers restored their loyalties to Canadian Club and labels such as Imperial. In the area of merchandising, Hiram Walker was the first to gift-wrap its liquor. Unlike the generation that succeeded him, Mr. Hatch never attended university, save for a six-week executive training course in New York in the 1950s. He was crowned company president and Chief Executive Officer in 1964, and among his first tasks was the acquisition of Courvoisier cognac. He also engineered the purchase of the company's most profitable brand, Kahlua coffee liqueur. Company policy was to buy fewer labels and concentrate on marketing them. Of course, tasting was important. Mr. Hatch would sample the goods personally, "always before lunch because that's when your taste buds are most active... about 11 o'clock in the morning," says his son, who also became president and Chief Executive Officer of Hiram Walker-Gooderham and Worts. Mr. Hatch became company chairman in the late 1970s, and, in 1980, he initiated the merger between Hiram Walker Gooderham and Worts and Consumers' Gas Co. of Toronto to fend off a rival's bid for the liquor concern. A corporate shuffle in 1982 returned him as president and Chief Executive Officer following the $630-million (U.S.) acquisition of oil and gas properties in the United States from Davis Oil Co. of Denver. Hiram Walker stumbled badly when it was discovered that the properties held much less proved and probable oil reserves than originally thought. Mr. Hatch announced his retirement in 1984. But, when the Reichmann family of Toronto launched a $3-billion hostile takeover bid in 1986 for the renamed Hiram Walker Resources Ltd., the company sold the liquor subsidiary to Allied-Lyons PLC, based in Britain. Mr. Hatch finally retired in 1987. Today, Hiram Walker is owned by the French firm Pernod Ricard as a result of that company's acquisition last year of Allied Domecq, and the various brands have been parcelled out. Hiram Walker and Sons Ltd. on Riverside Drive in Windsor still produces and bottles Canadian Club, sold in more than 150 countries, and several other labels, but it's all under contract to Kentucky-based Jim Beam. Its latest offering is pomegranate schnapps. Mr. Hatch left several major legacies in Windsor, despite having moved back to Toronto in 1994 to be closer to his children and grandchildren: He was founding chair of the Greater Windsor Community Foundation, which has supported the Basilian Fathers and the Art Gallery of Windsor. The Joan and Clifford Hatch Foundation has donated substantial sums to women's legal aid, Scouts Canada, and L'Arche Canada. And the Joan and Clifford Hatch Wildflower Garden commemorates the couple's contributions to the city's riverfront and parks system. In a particularly long struggle -- from 1938 to about 1980 -- Mr. Hatch was involved in efforts to remove rail lines from Windsor's waterfront. Like his own father, Mr. Hatch was a taciturn man who shunned the limelight. He made no public statements on the demise of the company his father founded. He never missed Sunday mass. "My father was very old-fashioned," said H. Clifford Hatch Jr. "He believed that good business was good for both sides. He believed his word was his bond. He always believed in never doing anything in the short term that would hurt the business in the longer term. And he believed that people made a big difference." Henry Clifford Hatch was born in Toronto on April 30, 1916, and died there on September 23, 2006, of cancer. He was 90. His wife, Joan, died in 2004. He leaves four children -- Cliff, Gail, Mary and Rick -- nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. (By Ron CSILLAG, Special to The Globe and Mail, Page S7 Toronto)


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Source: The Windsor Star 02 May 1942

Courtesy of Anne Gafiuk



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