Counsel to Bison Transport on its Sale to James Richardson & Sons

One of Canada’s largest transportation companies, Bison Transport Inc. (Bison), has a new owner. The sale to James Richardson & Sons, Ltd. (JRSL) positions Bison for continued growth and long-term success, while maintaining its Manitoba roots.

As of December 31, 2020, JRSL acquired 100% of the issued and outstanding shares of Bison and its affiliated companies from Wescan Capital Inc., the holding company of Winnipeg’s Jessiman family.

“We have been privileged to serve as counsel to Bison and to assist in the realization of their vision,” said Jim Ferguson, chair of the MLT Aikins mergers and acquisitions practice group.

Decades of Growth and Innovation

“MLT Aikins have been our corporate lawyers for almost 35 years,” said Peter Jessiman, President of Wescan Capital Inc. “They have assisted us every step of the way over decades of consistent growth. Their deep knowledge and understanding of our business made the decision to use them for this transaction pretty easy.”

The firm has represented Bison in its numerous acquisitions, supporting its continued growth and international reach. Bison has made a name for itself as a “jewel in the trucking industry,” not just in terms of size and history, but also for safety and technical innovation.

Since 1969, Bison has grown to become one of the largest transportation and logistics firms firm in Canada with more than 3,700 employees and contractors, operating a fleet of 2,100 tractors and 6,000 trailers across North America. The company has been recognized as North America’s safest fleet for the last 15 consecutive years and consistently wins awards for management performance and corporate culture.

Unique, Complex Transaction

Before Bison was officially “on the market,” the company reached out to JRSL in fall 2020 with the hopes of keeping the business in province. As Jim Ferguson noted, “The transaction was completed on an accelerated timeline and involved 27 professionals from the firm, representing the numerous specialty areas required to close the complex transaction.”

“In our history we have never had an event which required a legal team of this size. They had to meet very tight timelines, working around the clock, seven days per week for the better part of four months,” said Peter Jessiman. “This would have been a challenge for any firm, but Jim and his exceptional team rose to the challenge. We’re very happy with how it worked out.

“All MLT Aikins team members were fully dedicated to this transaction and immediately responsive for anything that we needed. Things were moving quickly and coming at us rapidly from across Canada and the U.S. We really needed to work with a team that could keep up, and they certainly did that.”

The MLT Aikins transaction team included James (Jim) Ferguson, Q.C., Peter Drazic, Pamela Hilderman, Scott Markham, Maria Penner, Celia Valel and Yassir Alnaji.

Made-in-Manitoba Match

With the sale to JRSL, Bison’s ownership transitions from one Winnipeg family to another – bucking a recent trend of Manitoba-owned transportation companies being sold to out-of-province owners.

The change in ownership will enable Bison to continue its growth objectives under its current brand and executive/management team, remaining headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Bison’s Executive Chairman, Don Streuber, called it “a made in Manitoba, family-to-family transition of a great Canadian success story.”

“We have been a long-time admirer of Bison Transport and we are very thankful to the Jessiman family for entrusting the future ownership of Bison to our family,” said Hartley Richardson, JRSL’s President and CEO, in a press release. “[We] share many of the same values and we are pleased that Bison’s senior management team have committed to continue to lead Bison and ensure that it continues to adhere to the same principles and standards of excellence and safety.”

JRSL is one of Canada’s largest private corporations. Established in 1857, the company has a rich history in Canadian agriculture, focusing on international grain trade and agri-food. JRSL also has divisions in the energy, transportation and marketing, financial services, insurance and real estate sectors. The acquisition allows JRSL to enter the truck transportation and logistics market with a highly regarded brand, building on Bison’s five decades of growth.

“Maybe this is a Winnipegger or prairie thing,” noted Peter Jessiman, “but it’s not an insignificant point that both we and the people at JRSL were very happy upon the completion of this transaction, and that to me means this is a great deal. On both sides, there is a feeling that Bison is going to be a very successful enterprise on a go-forward basis.”