John Bitove SR. – A Special Man – A Loyal Friend

In 1985 I got a call from Dennis Timbrell, former Tory MPP from Don Mills asking me to join him and a friend for lunch.  His friend was John Bitove Sr.  A self-made man of Macedonian descent, John was a staunch Conservative and a close personal friend of PM Brian Mulroney.  He was very interested in being a part of any future waterfront developments – and was frank about his interest in getting to know me.  The Peterson government was in power and he had heard grumblings about Ontario Place’s new aggressiveness.

“I think you are fronting for the government, not Tridel which is the rumor on the street”, he said.   I didn’t respond.  We went on to talk about Tory politics, Liberal politics and Ontario place.  I told him that David Peterson was an excellent “boss” and very receptive to new and gutsy challenges.

John then offered the services of the Bitove Corporation in any way that Ontario Place might want and in 1988 contracted to run Ontario Place’s food services.  A profit was made for the first time in a long time.  John and I had many mutual friends and for the next two years shared ideas and strategies about future development.   I loved his style and charm.  He also kept my office supplied with five-pound jars of Hershey kisses and ju-jubes – which Ontario Place staff made me declare as a “benefit received” since the value exceeded $200.

And we were off!  Olympics, waterfront development, a new hotel over the water – Exhibition Place – our lawyers said that the province really owned all that land.  Over the next two years, we saw lots of you Jordan – John Sr. was so proud of you.

John often warned me about my high profile and the perception people had of my ruthlessness.  “Backroom politics is the deadliest game of all” he told me.  But in 1989, Ontario Place had reduced its joint operating and capital deficit by $2,100,000.

When the STARR AFFAIR took over in 1990, John insisted on taking me out to lunch at the Royal York Hotel several times.  We ate yummy food and chatted – ignoring the stares and media.

“I am your friend,” he said.  “That will never change”.

Jordan, I am concerned about your NordStar strategy.  Some of those with whom you are now involved are not kosher.  You should follow it up.  Do you want to provide factual information or just the political opinions by biased self-serving wannabees?

David Peterson did not betray me.


“Justice Ted Wren and Crown Prosecutor Peter Griffiths agreed with Mrs. Starr’s counsel, Peter West, now Superior Court Judge West, on the statement of facts that included the following comments by Justice Wren, presented in an open courtroom to the Media and the Public present:  Notwithstanding there was no personal financial benefit to Mrs. Starr and her colleagues were surely aware of her activities on their behalf, an example must be made as a general deterrent to the public because of the high profile of this case”.