Billionaire business magnate Jimmy Pattison isn’t chomping at the bit to head to public markets in spite of the bonanza in initial public offerings over the last year. 

In a television interview Friday, Pattison, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Jim Pattison Group Inc., said running his operation away from the prying eyes of public markets has served him just fine over the conglomerate’s 58-year history.

“We’ve built our business being private. We do, of course, have investments in the stock market, and significant ones, certainly in the lumber business,” he said. “But by and large, we have tried to build our business on a private basis, we have 48,000 employees as of the end of last year, so we’re getting along fine.”

The Jim Pattison Group is Canada’s second-largest private company, boasting about $10.9 billion in annual sales, according to the company's website. The Vancouver-based conglomerate owns businesses across a range of industries, including grocer Save-On-Foods, farm-equipment dealer Pattison Agriculture and entertainment and hospitality venues including Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and Great Wolf Lodge.

Pattison also holds significant stakes in a pair of publicly-traded forestry companies, Canfor Corp. and West Fraser Timber Co Ltd.

Pattison said that the diversified nature of the company’s holdings helped lay bare the clear divergence between winners and losers in the pandemic economy, as stay-at-home orders curb activity in the hospitality industry while simultaneously driving up demand for goods like lumber and cars.

“For our businesses, it’s very mixed. We have some businesses that we’ve never done better, things like lumber have been very, very good, the automobile retail business has been very, very good, both new and used cars. Or course, the grocery stores are doing fine,” he said. 

“On the other side of the coin, we have things like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Entertainment has been hit significantly.”

While the timeline for a full economic recovery remains uncertain as vaccines are slowly distributed to Canadians, Pattison said he’s optimistic the company will be able to get back to hiring in the medium term, given demographic trends and the continued strength in lumber demand supporting the company’s interests in that sector.

“We certainly expect to see some opportunities to grow our business, we’re getting people that are thinking about retiring or making changes,” he said. “I mean, you see a very major merger with West Fraser that’s about to close with Brookfield. Those are very significant transactions, certainly within the lumber business.”