Turning risks into rewards

Truro's Rath successful in many business endeavours over the years

Jason Malloy jmalloy@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on March 30, 2011
Stu Rath is a well-known Truro businessman who will be recognized tonight with the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce's Lifetime Achievement Award. Jason Malloy - Truro Daily News

TRURO - They say timing is everything in business.

Stu Rath is a prime example of seeing the potential in a business and working hard to grow a company. He did that when he bought Eastern Cablevision in 1976 and led the business through a time of vast growth.

"Some people thought I was crazy," Rath told the Truro Daily News this week.

"I was giving up a good job in the bank and taking some risks and putting every cent I had into it. I sold my house and borrowed money from my father. A lot of people wouldn't do that."

Today, Rath is considered to be one of the most successful business people in Colchester County. For his business accomplishments and support to charitable organizations, Rath will receive the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award tonight.

Early life

Rath grew up on a dairy farm in Camden.

He attended a one-room schoolhouse in the rural community until Grade 10 when he attended the former Colchester high school when it opened in Onslow in 1957. Rath was not sure what he would do after high school, but knew he didn't want to be a farmer.

Work

In the summer after graduation (1960) he started working at the Bank of Montreal in Truro.

"In those days you started out as a junior and a teller. They brought you along very slowly then," Rath recalled.

It started a 16-year climb up the bank's ranks that included 10 moves. His last stop was in the credit department in the regional office in Halifax.

While working for the bank, Rath knew he wanted to get into business. It was during this time he became knowledgeable about the cable industry from his financial dealings with some of the companies.

Opportunity

It was through his relationships with people in the industry that he found out the Truro company was for sale.

Cable was still new in those days, but Rath, then 33 years old, saw the potential.

"You didn't even have the American stations. Because Truro was sort of down in the hollow you couldn't even get the Halifax stations clear," Rath recalled.

Rath, his wife Rene and their two children moved to Truro and lived on Walker Street.

"The office and everything was downstairs and we lived upstairs for the first year," Rath explained.

"Fortunately, the business took off and within a year we bought a house."

Shortly after buying Eastern Cablevision, Rath added a pair of American stations that were brought to home TVs via microwave transmission.

"It was an antique way of doing it, but this was long before satellite," Rath said.

There were about 2,000 subscribers when Rath purchased the company but that quickly grew to more than 5,000 following the addition of the American stations.

"The other choice was to put an antenna in the roof that still didn't get good reception," Rath said. "It was a good business from that point of view."

In 1985, Rath and Oxford's John Bragg purchased Halifax Cablevision, which Rath ran until selling his part of the company, which is now EastLink, to Bragg in 1995.

Exactly how much the deal was worth, Rath is not saying, but it's fair to say it made him one of Colchester County's wealthiest individuals and provided the cashflow for future projects.

New endeavours

After selling his share in the cable company, Rath decided to look for new opportunities.

"I wasn't ready to retire," he said, noting he has dabbled in various businesses and real estate projects as an investor.

"People call this the annex retirement office," he said from his third-floor Prince Street office.

He's been involved in a water and airport service businesses as well as an investor in a number of properties around town, including the Truro Centre, Bank of Montreal building and post office.

He's involved with First Angel Network, a Halifax not-for-profit group that gets together quarterly to hear from entrepreneurs looking for investors that sounds similar to the CBC-TV program Dragons Den.

"There's been a couple that didn't work out, but thank God the first one did," said Rath, referring to cable company.

"Now, you're certainly not going to take any risk on something that's going to ruin what you have built up."

One for the show

Rath said his best investment was his involvement in Somebeachsomewhere, widely considered the "best pacer of all time."

He was one of six people who invested $10,000 as part of Schooner Stable.

The horse won all but one of his 21 races during a two-year career, compiling $3.2 million in purse earnings.

The Beach is now at a stud farm in Kentucky but the local group still owns 75 per cent of the horse.

Involvement

Rath has been involved in everything from the Colchester Regional Development Agency and Truro Industrial Development Society to being part of the fundraising campaign for the new regional hospital.

Legacy

One thing about Rath is his word means something.

"One of the things that's really important as a businessman is that he's honourable," said Garry Pye, a close friend who has known Rath for about 40 years. "Stu's word is as good as a legal agreement with lawyers as far as I'm concerned."

Leo Rovers has known Rath for more than 20 years. They have been business partners on various projects.

"He's a very smart man, but also a public-minded as well. He does a lot of things for people that most of us don't know about," he said.

The businessmen said Rath is a tremendous community leader and they are happy to see him receiving tonight's award.

"I think it's great," Rovers said. "There's not a more deserving man in town than Stu."

jmalloy@trurodaily.com