"I’ve got pictures in my office of my granddad and my dad. I call them the boys and I think the boys are still watching. That’s why I do what I do."
To Bill Yuill, the real purpose of business is to build value by making something worth more than it was when you first discovered it. Bill has been building value in his home town of Medicine Hat, and well beyond, all his life.
Willard Hervey Yuill was born in Medicine Hat, and while he has travelled to many places and lived away from the city over the course of his life, there is no other place he considers home.
Literally and figuratively, Bill's family are builders of Medicine Hat. As a contractor for the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s, Bill's grandfather saw the potential of the area. With clay in abundance, and cheap natural gas to fire kilns, he established Alberta Clay Products, one of several potteries that became a core industry in Medicine Hat.
It was just one of a range of businesses that Bill's grandfather had a hand in building.
Bill's father, Harlan "Hop" Yuill, picked up the mantle of entrepreneurship in his turn. He expanded the family’s business interests to include a radio station, CHAT AM, in 1946, CHAT TV in 1957 and three movie theatres.
In the early 1960s, the Famous Players Theatre Company approached Bill's father about a partnership in the cable television business. Bill, having completed his studies at St. Andrew's College and the University of British Columbia, was working in the family broadcasting business. At the age of 25 he was hired to manage Cablevision Medicine Hat Ltd.
Bill's duties included going door to door to sign up subscribers, a tough sell in the early days. Eventually the business blossomed, and when Canadian ownership regulations prompted Famous Players to divest, Monarch acquired the company’s majority shares. Through the years, Monarch expanded to 38 cable systems in Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, while the broadcasting arm of Monarch grew to 16 stations in medium and large markets in Alberta and British Columbia.
In every market, Monarch was committed to local programming and an active role in the local community. It was a good business strategy, but it also accords with Bill's philosophy of business: building value.
Bill purchased ownership of the Monarch companies in 1972. Throughout his involvement in broadcasting and cable systems, the only constant has been change. In 2001 he sold the Monarch Broadcasting assets to the Jim Pattison Group, in 2004 he sold the majority of the cable systems to Shaw Communications and in 2006 sold the BC cable systems to City West Cable and Telephone Corporation. Today, Monarch Communications operates a fibre optic company, managing over 1,000 kilometres of fibre network throughout Alberta.
Through his broadcasting experience, Bill became involved in sports franchise ownership. In 1977, he and a group friends acquired a franchise in the Pioneer League of Professional Baseball, making Medicine Hat the home of the Oakland A’s farm team. In 1978, the Medicine Hat A's became the Medicine Hat Blue Jays when they switched affiliation to Toronto.
In 1994, this relationship gave rise to one of the most remarkable days in Medicine Hat's sporting history. The two-time World Champion Toronto Blue Jays came to town to play an exhibition game. On June 6, 1994, 10,000 fans from western Canada and the US witnessed the event. This was the largest attended sporting event in the history of Medicine Hat. No fewer than nine players of the World Series champions had started their professional career in Medicine Hat.
Bill’s private company, Consolidated Sports Holdings Ltd. went on to own and operate seven minor league baseball teams in Canada and the United States, the only group in North America to put together a complete minor league farm system in organized baseball. The company also operated a professional basketball franchise in Las Vegas in the World Basketball League. The company currently owns the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League along with several other hockey franchises in the United States Hockey League and the North American Hockey League.
Bill has always loved the merit-based aspect of sport, the purity of competition, and the camaraderie that a team develops over a season, working towards the goal of a championship. He currently holds four championship baseball rings, including two from the Toronto Blue Jays, four minor league hockey championship rings and one he earned as captain of the St. Andrews hockey team for the Ontario Prep School Hockey Championship in 1956. His team also won the champion’s trophy in the wild cow milking contest at the Brooks Rodeo in 1971.
As Chairman and CEO of The Monarch Corporation, Bill upholds the family tradition of being active on many fronts, always looking for the next opportunity and always ready for the next challenge to the established order. As he looks back on his many successful ventures, Bill is happy to know he can share his good fortune with his community on a personal level and through the Yuill Family Foundation, formed in 2007.
One of his major philanthropic efforts saw the Yuill Family Foundation contribute $2 million to help create the Margery Yuill Cancer Centre at the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital. It is a tribute to his mother, a nurse at the hospital who was active with the Red Cross and who helped to establish the Medicine Hat YWCA. Margery died of pancreatic cancer in 1965. Bill feels that his mother would approve of the centre, for its medical accomplishments and for providing rural people a place to go for treatment without the culture shock and expense they would face in Calgary.
Another example of Bill's philanthropy is the contribution he and his wife Elizabeth made to Medalta, the industrial heritage museum dedicated to Medicine Hat's famous clay industry. The Yuill Family Gallery, which features the work of artists alongside travelling exhibitions, nicely sums up his family's historic roots and wide horizons. Other generous gifts include Medicine Hat's Family YMCA, Edmonton's Mazankowski Heart Institute, and his alma mater, St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ontario. Recently, the Foundation made a significant contribution toward the J.H. “Hop” Yuill Fitness Centre at the newly renovated Medicine Hat High School, in memory of his father.
For decades, Bill has shared his wisdom and experience on all types of boards and organizations, from minor hockey to the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, from the Medicine Hat College Foundation to the Alberta Economic Development Authority. He was also part of the local YMCA, Medicine Hat Cypress Club, World Presidents’ Organization and the Medicine Hat Exhibition and Stampede.
Bill currently serves as a director of Shaw Communications and the Western Investment Company of Canada. He is a governor of the Western Hockey League and a member of the Foundation of St. Andrew's College.
Bill was honoured with the Milner Fenerty Pinnacle Award in 1995, an Honourary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Lethbridge in 2006, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003 and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013.
Bill Yuill has seen a great deal of change over this lifetime. He remembers a time when if you wanted to drive from Medicine Hat to Calgary on a paved road, you had to drive 100 miles southwest to Lethbridge, then turn north. He marvels at what can be achieved in broadcasting with the click of a computer mouse today, and fondly remembers all the people it used to take to create such magic. But no matter what changes come, he believes in the timeless values of standing by your hometown, being good to others and creating value in the time you're given.