We live in an era of truly incredible wealth and vast inequality between the richest billionaires and every day middle class people. The 25 richest families in the world have a combined net worth of $1.1 trillion. The Thomson family is the 18th wealthiest family in the world, with a combined $30.9 billion net worth. The Thomson family was put on the road to great wealth by Roy Thomson, 1st Baron Thomson of Fleet. In 1934, Roy acquired a newspaper in Ontario, Canada. He put a down payment of $200 on the Timmins Daily Press. Almost immediately, he began expanding, buying up newspapers and radio stations in Ontario.
By the early 1950s Thomson was the owner of 19 newspapers and was the president of the Canadian Daily Newspaper Publisher's Association. He also started the Canadian Weekly Review to cater to Canadians living in the U.K. In 1952, Thomson moved to Edinburgh, Scotland and bought The Scotsman newspaper. In 1957, he bought Scottish Television, which he was known to describe as a "permit to print money." In 1959 he acquired the Kemsley Group, the largest group of newspapers in the U.K., which included The Sunday Times.
Over the years, Roy Thomson expanded his media empire to more than 200 newspapers in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. The Thomson Organization has interests in publishing, printing, television, and travel.
In the 1970s, Thomson and J. Paul Getty became part of a consortium that struck oil in the North Sea.
Roy Thomson died in London in 1976. Prior to his death, Thomson laid out a detailed succession plan for his heirs in the 1970s. At that time, he anointed his grandson David (over his sister Taylor or brother Peter), as his son Kenneth's eventual successor and David's son as Kenneth's successor. It was his intention to instill in his heirs a good work ethic and appreciation for responsibility.
David Thomson took over as chairman of the Thomson Corporation following his father Kenneth's death in 2006. In 2008, David led the acquisition of Reuters to form the merged conglomerate Thomson Reuters. Thomson is also chairman of Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. The family's outside investments are owned by closely held investment company called Woodbridge, which Thomson controls with his brother Peter. In addition to Thomason Reuters, Woodbridge owns stake in IHS, an analytics firm and Strategic Hotels and Resorts. The Thomson's earn more than $3 billion in cash dividends from public holdings every five years.
Thomson's career has largely been spent in companies owned or controlled by his family. In the 1980s, Thomson sold socks at his family's Hudson Bay store. He managed The Bay store at Cloverdale Mall in Toronto suburb Etobicoke and was the President of Zellers before all of those stores closed in 2012. Thomson founded real estate firm Osmington Incorporated, which operated outside of the Thomson conglomerate. Osmington is a partner in True North Sports and Entertainment, the entity that owns the NHL's Winnipeg Jets.
Thomson, who lives in Toronto, is a patron of the Art Gallery of Ontario. He is an art collector who is rumored to own pieces by Pablo Picasso. He has the world's largest collection of the work of John Constable. Like many of the billionaires from the world's richest families, Thomson rarely gives interviews, maintains a low public profile, and when he is quoted in the media, it is often a negative comment about the business world.