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David Foster named top entrepreneur by University of Victoria

David Foster, the Victoria-born music star and philanthropist, has been named 2015 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year by the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business.
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David Foster: Cited by UVicÕs Gustavson School for business acumen.

David Foster, the Victoria-born music star and philanthropist, has been named 2015 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year by the University of Victoria’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business.

The 16-time Grammy Award-winning musician is best known as a successful songwriter, composer, arranger and producer whose collaborators include Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion and Diana Krall.

“This year, we thought we’d do something a little more fun and recognize another type of entrepreneur, and not just on the business side,” said award committee chairman Peter Gustavson, president of Gustavson Capital.

Foster, 65, will be in sterling company when his entrepreneurial achievements are celebrated at a gala on May 28 at the Victoria Conference Centre.

One of his most notable achievements, Gustavson said, is his David Foster Foundation — “a business in itself” — which has raised millions of dollars to assist families with children who need organ transplants.

Previous recipients of the award, established in 2004 to recognize inspirational entrepreneurs who have had a significant impact globally, include former Yahoo Inc. president Jeff Mallett, the late Thrifty Foods co-founder Alex Campbell, and Dennis Washington, the Montana-based construction and transportation magnate and philanthropist whose Washington Companies include Seaspan.

It was Washington, a friend and longtime foundation supporter, who nominated Foster for the 2015 award.

“That anyone at this prestigious university would think I have enough business acumen to be worthy of this award just makes me stand at attention,” said Foster after learning about the honour. This “hometown boy” didn’t see it coming, he said. “I love the fact I grew up in Victoria, and I’ve watched this university grow from nothing to this place where people from all over the world want to come, and that has inspired me.”

Gustavson recalled an acceptance speech remark made by Mallett, the award’s first recipient, to describe the type of quality Foster exhibits.

“Jeff said: ‘When entrepreneurs squint, they can see just a little bit farther than everybody else in terms of where the opportunities are,’ ” Gustavson recalled.

“I see that in David. He creates something out of nothing. He finds new talent and develops that talent where others don’t see it. He’s an entertainer and a producer, but he really is a businessman.”

While the award commends Foster for business successes such as 143 Records, his boutique label set up as a joint venture with Warner Bros., and his achievements since becoming chairman of Universal’s Verve Music group, Gustavson said the charitable work was a significant factor.

“I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur that didn’t believe they need to give back to society, and David gives back in spades, more than most of us,” Gustavson said.

mreid@timescolonist.com