Anthony “Tony” Melman was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 1 June 1947 to Frances and Jack Melman. He was Frances and Jack’s second child, their first being Tony’s older sister, Lillian. Both of Tony’s parents were second-generation South Africans, his father’s family originating from Lithuania and his mother’s from Poland.
Tony describes himself as having been “quite naughty” as a child, which, among other things, resulted in him being sent to a Methodist boarding school. The experience was not entirely negative as Tony forged close friendships with other Jewish boys at the school. Prefiguring his lifelong passion for music, he even formed a rock ‘n’ roll band while he was there.
After high school, Tony enrolled in the army, eventually becoming a major. His rebellious streak alive and well, he would sometimes go AWOL in order to play music at different nightclubs around town.
Tony’s postsecondary education spanned several institutions: He holds a bachelor of science degree from Wits University, a master of business administration degree (gold medalist) from the University of Cape Town, and a doctor of philosophy degree (also from Wits). At the time, Tony thought of his PhD as a kind of “ticket” for leaving South Africa.
Tony and his wife came to Toronto in February 1977 and fell in love with the city. In July, Tony took up a position at CIBC, where he rose to the position of senior vice president. In 1984, he left CIBC to co-found Onex Corporation, where he stayed until 2006. Upon leaving Onex, he enjoyed a brief retirement before returning to the world of finance, co-founding Acasta Capital in 2012 and Acasta Enterprises in 2015.
In addition to music, Tony is passionate about health and fitness. He and his wife Valerie have three children.
Cape Town (South Africa)
Johannesburg (South Africa)
00:15 Anthony introduces himself. He states his date and place of birth and describes his immediate family. He was born in Johannesburg, South Africa on 1 June 1947. Growing up, he had an older sister, Lillian. His parents were Frances and Jack Melman.
00:50 Anthony discusses his family history. His parents were born in South Africa and were second-generation South Africans. His father's family was from Lithuania originally while his mother's family was from Poland.
01:15 Anthony talks about his sister. He relates a story about her marking up his face when they were little. They weren't close. Today, she lives in Los Angeles with her family.
02:40 Anthony talks about himself as a child. He describes himself as "quite naughty." His naughty behaviour led his father to send him to boarding school.
03:55 Anthony discusses Jewish observance at home. They were Orthodox but did not run an Orthodox home. He shares memories of synagogue attendance.
05:13 Anthony discusses his father's relationship to Judaism. He describes his father as "a proud Jew." He was not, however, an especially religious man.
06:05 Anthony discusses his father's profession. Jack Melman was a lawyer who ran a family practice. He did not encourage Anthony to follow in his footsteps, professionally-speaking.
07:47 Anthony explains his decision-making process around leaving South Africa. He then talks about his family's reaction when he informed them of his decision. They were supportive.
09:25 Anthony talks about his schooling. He attended a Methodist boarding school, where he formed a rock 'n' roll band. The Jewish boys at the school bonded over their outsider status. His education was in English, although he did learn Afrikaans.
13:05 Anthony remembers his bar mitzvah. It was a fun event.
14:25 Anthony talks about his time in the army. Conscription was not mandatory at the time. His father felt it was important for Anthony to serve his country. Anthony became a major in the army. He also relates stories of going AWOL to play music at different nightclubs.
20:05 Anthony talks about his mother, who was very musical. Neither Anthony's father nor his sister were musical. Anthony concludes his love of music comes from his mother. On the whole, Anthony's family was indifferent to his musical interests. His mother-in-law appreciated his music.
23:18 Anthony elaborates upon the continuing importance of music in his life. He wrote music for each of his daughter's weddings as well as for his son's bar mitzvah. He considers his music spiritual as well as philosophical.
25:44 Anthony discusses his postsecondary education at the University of Witswatersrand, where he studied chemical engineering. He did not want to become a chemical engineer, so he went to Cape Town to attend business school. Following that, he went into the workforce only to decide to do a PhD. He saw the PhD as a "ticket" to exit South Africa.
28:57 Anthony explains how he came to North America upon completing his PhD in December 1976.
30:10 Anthony describes falling in love with Toronto. He and his wife came in February 1977. They had never experienced snow before. He began working at CIBC in July 1977.
32:20 Anthony talks about friends in Toronto who helped him and his wife get set-up.
34:45 Anthony discusses how he came to co-found Onex. It became a launching pad for his "evolution" in finance.
43:30 Anthony talks about what he means by "evolution." He talks about his early forays into business (such as selling his mother's sandwiches at school) and his later entrepreneurial endeavours. He believes it is necessary to be both tough and fair in business.
46:00 Anthony discusses a Financial Post article that profiled him. He considers himself to have been instrumental in Onex's success. He cites Celestica as an example. He speaks at length about the Labatt takeover.
50:45 Anthony returns to the theme of evolution. He considers himself to have been at grade one when he came to Canada. Now he is "as far as . . . most people can go."
52:20 Anthony talks about his decision to leave Onex after twenty-one years. He felt that the culture changed. It was not a culture that he felt comfortable with.
52:55 Anthony talks about his short-lived retirement, during which time he was the chair of Baycrest. He also devoted himself to his hobbies, including guitar and photography.
54:50 Anthony recalls his experience being approached by Belinda Stronach regarding a business opportunity. Together, they started Acasta Capital.
57:30 Anthony talks about his passion for and commitment to fitness.
1:02:05 Anthony discusses fainting in a Four Seasons hotel in New York and hitting his head on the way down. At the time, he attributed it to low blood sugar. Anthony goes on to relate his prior and subsequent health history.
1:11:00 Anthony talks about his life today, including his health, the significance of the number eleven for him, his family, and Acasta Capital/Acasta Enterprises. Anthony closes on the theme of people and the importance of people to business.