Linamar founder Frank Hasenfratz left a lasting legacy in the aftermarket industry
That ingenuity — along with an entrepreneurial spirit and a relentless desire to learn — gave Hasenfratz, who died Jan. 8 at age 86 from an undisclosed illness, a rare skill set that would make him the one of Canada’s self-made billionaires.
“He was a giant among us,” his daughter and Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz said at his January 15 funeral. “A father, a mentor, a leader. He will be missed immensely.
‘SEARCH THE SUN’
Born in 1935 in pre-war Hungary, Ferenc (Frank) Hasenfratz spent his teenage years repairing motorcycles with parts he made himself. Still an entrepreneur, he lent the fixed bikes before returning them to their owners.
Hasenfratz was a certified machinist by the time he was drafted into the Hungarian army in the spring of 1955. Towards the end of his two years of service, Hasenfratz’s military unit joined the freedom fighters in the Hungarian revolution. When the Soviet Union invaded Hungary, Hasenfratz fled to Austria, and in the spring of 1957 he left Europe for Canada.
Frank Stronach, founder of supplier Magna International, had emigrated from Austria to Canada in 1954 to take a parallel path to automotive parts fame. Now 89, Stronach remembers Hasenfratz as a “driven” businessman whose past taught him not to take opportunities for granted.
“Growing up during the war, and shortly after the war, left a deep impression,” Stronach said. Automotive News Canada. “Things have not always been rosy.
Hasenfratz spent his first weeks in Canada sleeping on a train station bench, doing odd jobs to earn money. It was hard, but not like in the days of the army.
“I wasn’t upset, I was happy,” he said at a 2012 event for his authorized biography Driven to Succeed. “When bad things happen to you, look for the sun.”
A SIXTH SENSE
Hasenfratz had an ear for broken equipment as well as opportunities. Even as CEO of Linamar, he could sometimes be found tinkering with a machine in the workshop.
He was looking for good ideas from employees.
“Every time you walk into a factory, you learn something or you teach something. If you didn’t do either, it was a waste of time,” he said in his biography.