Best Ottawa Business Awards honour local 'leaders we should be proud of’

Lansdowne visionary John Ruddy, Calian CEO Kevin Ford among homegrown business titans honoured at record-setting ceremony
John Ruddy
Trinity Development Group founder John Ruddy at the 2017 Best Ottawa Business Awards. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

With thousands of visitors set to flock to Ottawa for this month's Grey Cup festivities, it was only fitting that the man who did more than anyone else to bring the championship game to the nation’s capital took centre stage last night at the year’s biggest business event.

Trinity Development Group founder John Ruddy was among more than two dozen individuals and companies feted at the Best Ottawa Business Awards as a who’s-who of community leaders looked on. And with the 105th Grey Cup slated for TD Place stadium at Lansdowne Park on Nov. 26, the timing could hardly have been better.

Mr. Ruddy, 65, was the driving force behind the redevelopment of Lansdowne and the subsequent return of CFL football to Ottawa in 2014. For that and a host of other accomplishments in a career spanning four decades, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Introducing his friend to the audience, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group CEO Bernie Ashe proudly pointed out that the Grey Cup is “a game that would not have been played in Ottawa but for John.”

Paying tribute to Mr. Ruddy’s “ferocious competitive spirit,” Mr. Ashe praised the commercial real estate titan and OSEG partner for his “sharp intellect,” his wisdom and his willingness to look beyond the financial bottom line in his quest to build a better city.

“He put his money where his heart was,” said Mr. Ashe, who took home a BOB award himself in 2015 for CEO of the Year. “Few will leave the community better than they found it. Many try. John will.”

A low-key man who shuns the spotlight despite being the linchpin of dozens of major development projects, Mr. Ruddy called Lansdowne “one of my proudest building projects in Ottawa to date” because it brings people from across the city together.

In addition to building more than 27 million square feet of big-box retail space across the country, the Ottawa native has donated millions of dollars to health-care, arts and community organizations through his Trinity Development Foundation.

“What’s really important in our community is the people within the community,” said Mr. Ruddy, a lifelong football fan who played the game while studying architecture at Carleton University. “I took some big chances, worked hard and relied on a bit of luck.”

In addition to the Lifetime Achievement Award, the BOBs also honoured the CEO of the Year as well as top-performing companies in several categories, including best businesses and deals of the year.

BOBs
Guy Laflamme, the executive director of the Ottawa 2017 Bureau, accepted the awarded for the Tourism Deal of the Year and Marketing Deal of the Year. (Photo by Mark Holleron.)

A record crowd of nearly 750 people turned out for the gala at the Westin Hotel, which also featured a bit of star power – both local and international.

CEO of the year

Shopify’s Harley Finkelstein kicked off the lively black-tie event with a video in which he virtually skateboarded around the firm’s downtown headquarters while urging the city’s business leaders to build ambitious, world-beating enterprises.

Comedian Tom Green, who grew up in Gloucester, then welcomed everyone to the festivities via a pretaped video from Las Vegas, where he’s got a regular gig at Bally’s casino. Entrepreneur David Chilton of Wealthy Barber fame added a video tribute of his own, congratulating the night’s recipients.

One of the evening’s biggest stars was CEO of the Year Kevin Ford, who has headed Calian Group since early 2015. Known for his humble, down-to-earth demeanour, the 53-year-old Ottawa native credited Calian’s nearly 3,000 employees for their hard work and dedication in building a $275-million-a-year company.

Kevin Ford
Calian Group CEO Kevin Ford at the 2017 Best Ottawa Business Awards.

“I’m not really an award guy, to be honest with you,” he said with a smile. “But I’m so proud to be here tonight because I really look at this as a recognition of the amazing team we have at Calian.”

Mr. Ford also took time to acknowledge leaders such as Royal Ottawa CEO George Weber and Ottawa Hospital president Jack Kitts for their contributions to the community.

“When I look around the city, there’s just so many leaders I think we should be proud of,” he told the crowd. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else. In Kevin Ford-speak, I think this city is freaking awesome.”