After dropping hints about it for a year, Frank Stronach, the billionaire founder of auto parts maker Magna International, is launching a political party in Austria with the intention of breaking the small European country away from the struggling eurozone, according to news reports.
“Europe can only work if every country has its own currency,” Stronach, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes to be $1.2 billion (U.S.), told the German business daily Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten.
Stronach, who was born in Austria and immigrated to Canada as a youth in the 1950s, is joining a growing chorus of politicians and parties who have soured on the European common currency in the wake of the Greek and Spanish debt crises. He formally announced his intention to form a party over the weekend. He has previously suggested the party would be called the Citizens' Alliance.
Stronach told the Austrian daily Die Presse that leaving the euro is necessary to ensure that future generations of Austrians aren’t saddled with large amounts of debt accumulated by other European countries.
As the top-listed candidate in the party, Stronach would be guaranteed a seat in Austria’s parliament if the party breaks the 10-per-cent voter support threshold needed for admission. He predicted his party would meet the cutoff.
Asked if he feared the negative consequences of a euro exit, Stronach was unequivocal.
“It would have positive consequences. The longer we stay inside, the more negative it is,” he said.
Stronach's position may contain an element of political opportunism. Recent polls show that Austrian voters have become pessimistic about the euro, and even in neighbouring Germany, which is seen as the political and economic centre of the eurozone, voters are turning off from the currency.
Stronach is no stranger to politics, having run unsuccessfully for the Liberal Party of Canada in 1988, in the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe. His daughter Belinda served as a Conservative member of Parliament starting in 2004, before jumping to the Liberals in 2005. She also staged an unsuccessful bid for the Conservative leadership in 2004.
Even before Stronach's party has boots on the ground, some commentators in Austria have wondered about the effects of a Canadian billionaire on the country’s politics.
In May, following Stronach’s release of his political manifesto, Der Standard writer Hans Rauscher suggested Stronach could become Austria’s Silvio Berlusconi, referring to the wealthy Italian industrial magnate who dominated Italy’s political scene for much of the past two decades.
Stronach was Canada’s highest-paid corporate executive in 2010, pocketing $61.8 million for his role as chairman of Magna, according to the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
10: Jonathan Henry, Gabriel Resources $11.7M
Gabriel Resources is a Toronto-based company focused primarily on a gold excavation project in Romania. <i>Note: An earlier version of this gallery reported that Gabriel Resources' 2010 revenue was $448 million. <a href="http://globeinvestor.sympatico.ca/invest/investSQL/sym.company_prof?company_id=160018" target="_hplink">It was, in fact, $448,000, according to publicly listed data</a>. A company spokesperson says the resource firm was in a period of pre-production in 2010, and did not generate revenue. Thus, Henry's compensation of $11.7 million exceeded the company's revenues for the year.</i>
9: Gordon Nixon, RBC $11.9M
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is the largest financial institution in the country. Henry's total pay of $11.9 million was the equivalent of 0.1 per cent of the company's $10.3 billion in 2010 revenues.
8: Stephen DeFalco, Nordion $13.1M
Nordion is an Ottawa-based health sciences company that specializes in medical isotopes. DeFalco's total pay of $13.1 million was the equivalent of 5.1 per cent of the company's $256 million in 2010 revenues. DeFalco left the CEO position in 2010.
7: Steve Laut, Canadian Natural Resources $13.1M
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is a Calgary-based oil and gas exploration company. Laut's total pay of $13.1 million was the equivalent of 0.08 per cent of the company's $14.6 billion in 2010 revenues.
6: Richard Waugh, Scotiabank $13.8M
The Bank of Nova Scotia is the third largest bank in Canada. Waugh's total pay of $13.8 million was the equivalent of 0.06 per cent of the company's $23.8 billion in 2010 revenues.
5: Martyn Konig, European Goldfields $14.8M
Despite its name, European Goldfields in a Canadian-based company, operating out of the Northwest Territories. Konig's total pay of $14.8 million was the equivalent of 29.1 per cent of the company's $50.7 million in 2010 revenues.
4: Edward Sampson, Niko Resources $16.5M
Niko Resources is a Calgary-based oil and gas exploration company operating fields mostly outside Canada. Sampson's total pay of $16.5 million was the equivalent of 3.6 per cent of the company's $455 million in 2010 revenues.
3: Siegfried Wolf, Co-CEO, Magna $16.5M
Southern Ontario-based Magna International is North America's largest car parts manufacturer. Wolf's total pay of $16.5 million was the equivalent of 0.07 per cent of the company's $24.2 billion in 2010 revenues. Wolf stepped down as co-CEO in 2010.
2: Donald Walker, Co-CEO, Magna $16.7M
Southern Ontario-based Magna International is North America's largest car parts manufacturer. Walker's total pay of $16.7 million was the equivalent of 0.07 per cent of the company's $24.2 billion in 2010 revenues.
Frank Stronach, Magna $61.8M
Southern Ontario-based Magna International is North America's largest car parts manufacturer. Stronach's total pay of $61.8 million was the equivalent of 0.26 per cent of the company's $24.2 billion in 2010 revenues.