Levi Sampson’s story is what movies are made of. He saved two well-known Vancouver Island institutions from shutting down: Harmac Pacific and CHEK TV.
Harmac Pacific was a pulp mill in Nanaimo for nearly 60 years when it went into receivership. Its employees were willing to put up their own money to buy the mill.
Growing up as a captain of his sports teams, leadership came naturally for Sampson. “The mill was in its final throes when I floated the idea among other private investors.”
In addition to being the company’s principal backer to support the employee ownership model, Sampson soon became president.
“I love a challenge, no matter how big. The first thing I did was to visit our customer base around the world to tell them we were back in business.”
Harmac started with 220 employees and today 300 employees were thrilled to receive a very healthy dividend at Christmas.
CHEK TV had covered the fall and rise of Harmac and was in its own dire straits. It was about to close after 50 years on the air. They reached out to Sampson. He provided guidance and then became a principal backer.
Today CHEK is the only independent, employee-owned TV station in Canada. “I always wanted to do well in business, and local jobs mean a lot to me. We were able to keep 300 families on the Island.”
Sampson also helps in the community. He joined the David Foster Foundation board and was a co-host on the Sky’s the Limit documentary series.
“The underlying message is to go after your dreams…. and don’t let someone say that you can’t do something.” •