We have received the sad news that Frank Hasenfratz, founder and chairman of Skyjack owner Linamar, passed away on January 8th died following a battle with cancer. He was 86.
He was born in the town of Szár - to the west of Budapest - in 1935 and given the name Ferenc. In his teens he began earning extra money fixing bikes while attending technical school before starting an apprenticeship with engine manufacturer Csonka Janos Gepgyar. In 1955 his apprenticeship and life were disrupted by compulsory military service. When the 1956 uprisings began against the Soviet occupation, Hasenfratz sided with the ‘rebels’ and, in 1957 following the Soviet Union’s crushing of the revolution, he decided to leave. Crossing the border into Austria, he worked his way north to the French coast and took a ship to Canada.
Arriving penniless in Quebec City in May 1957, Hasanfratz was handed a visa and $5 by immigration officials. Over the next few weeks he survived by washing cars and sleeping on a bench on the station platform. He eventually made his way to Guelph and the house of an uncle whom he had never met. He quickly found work as a toolmaker and machinist with Sinterings Ltd and before long was promoted to supervisor.
In 1960, he married Margaret Ferter, also a Hungarian immigrant, and using his modest savings, along with money Margaret had earned working on a tobacco farm, purchased their first family home north of Guelph, Ontario. In 1964 he purchased a lathe and set up a small machine shop in the basement of his home, modifying the oven in the kitchen to heat treat copper aircraft components.
In 1966, although a ‘one man band’, Hasanfratz incorporated his fledgling business using the names of his two daughters, Linda and Nancy, and his late wife Margaret to create Linamar. The company was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1986. His determination and entrepreneurial zeal enabled him to build the business into a global automotive parts and component supplier with 26,000 employees.
The company acquired Skyjack in a friendly takeover bid in June 2002, having already acquired a 49 percent stake from founder Wolf Haessler just a few years earlier and having set up a joint venture to build Skyjack scissor lifts in Hungary in 2001.
During his lifetime, Hasanfratz received many awards and accolades including an induction into Canada’s Manufacturing Hall of Fame and the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. When accepting his award, he said: “A quart of milk was 17 cents at that time, and a loaf of bread was 17 cents. With a quart of milk and one loaf of bread, you can live a day - comfortably.”
Hasenfratz was also appointed to the Order of Canada, which recognises the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians who have made a major difference to Canada through lifelong contributions in every field of endeavour.
Frank Hasenfratz was also a philanthropist and generous supporter of the greater Guelph community, supporting institutions such as Guelph General Hospital, Western University, St. Joseph’s Foundation and the local performing arts.
A statement from the company said: “It is with profound sadness that the board of directors of Linamar Corporation announces the passing of the Company’s Founder, beloved leader and long-time executive chairman, Frank Hasenfratz. Mr. Hasenfratz passed away peacefully on January 8th, 2022, at his home surrounded by his family after a courageous battle with cancer. The Corporation and its 26,000 employees extend their deepest sympathies to the Hasenfratz, Newton and Stoddart families for their loss. Funeral arrangements are underway and will be posted in the coming days.”
“Frank will most fondly be remembered in the halls and on the production shop floor at Linamar where he mentored a generation of manufacturing and business leaders. At Linamar, we will continue to live by Frank’s words to strive to continuously improve, act quickly and decisively, set goals and track progress and always ‘Do What We Do Best, Better’."
He leaves behind his daughters Linda and Nancy and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are underway and will be posted in the coming days.
The following video tells a little more of this remarkable man’s story