TO SHARE A PROFILE OF A TRAILBLAZER LIKE BARRY F. LORENZETTI IN THE PAGES OF OUR SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY 10TH EDITION AND ON THE SITE HERE IS, QUITE SIMPLY, AN HONOUR … ENJOY
Dubbed by many as “Montreal’s Renaissance Man,” Barry F. Lorenzetti is never far from his old neighbourhood of ville Émard, in spirit and in being.
It’s where the entrepreneur, builder and corporate leader was born and bred. It’s where his working-class upbringing not only instilled the discipline and dedication to build BFL CANADA into a powerhouse insurance broker, but also taught him the importance of community.
Lorenzetti has won more awards and been bestowed with more honours than can be listed here — including most recently knight of the Order of Montreal 2022, Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association (CIBPA) 2022 Person of the Year and Canadian Chamber of Commerce 2021 International Business Leader of the Year. But he makes it clear that the awards are less about the recognition and more about knowing he’s done the right thing.
“For people who have done well in life, I think giving back to their community should be on their CV. I think you need to do it,” Lorenzetti says. “I didn’t wake up one morning and exclaim, ‘I want to be a better person.’ It’s something that happened naturally. It’s got to be inside of you.”
The reason Lorenzetti has devoted much of his life to helping others? His family, starting with his parents, worked to the bone to give him an opportunity to excel in life.
“My mom was a work-at-home Irish woman born just outside of Dublin. My father was born here, spoke three languages and was a milk-man. I grew up on the second floor of a building in Ville-Émard on the main street, and my dad always made sure there was food on the table. They injected core values in me. Being disciplined, being polite, being respectful — that was important.”
Now a proud father himself, Lorenzetti used the lessons he learned from his childhood to build a business empire, but it was equally important to ensure that his kids, raised in comparative luxury, never forgot where they came from. His three adult children — Maggie, Justin and Jenna — are integral to his philanthropic efforts.
“My son is president of the foundation,” he says. “My daughters sit on the board. So they all get it.”
The Barry F. Lorenzetti Foundation was launched in 2018 with a commitment to improving mental-health services across Canada, including youth mental health and military post-traumatic stress disorder. Little did he know at the time that a global pandemic would grind the world to a halt and send so many people spiralling into depression, anxiety and other mental-health issues. The need has only grown since the foundation’s creation.
“Never did I think any of this would happen when I started the foundation four years ago,” Lorenzetti says. “I can even see the toll it’s taken on the 1,200 employees in my business. We’ve had employees who have gone through tough times, as well as their families.”
“We’ve taken more time, effort and money to reinvest in our business for the cause of mental health. We’ve built our company with culture and a special business model, and it’s difficult to maintain that culture and ensure employees are getting what they need to be happy and succeed when we’re all in our homes. We’re all coping as best as we can. In the last two years, we’ve had new people come in and I haven’t even had the chance to meet them or get them involved in mentorship programs. I just can’t wait to visit every office and get to know people again.”
In June, the foundation will receive proceeds from the Ritz-Carlton’s Grand Prix party for its initiatives.
Last fall, before the Omicron wave, the foundation was able to hold an in-person gala, and for so many in the Montreal philanthropic community, the resplendent event was a welcome return to the magic of uniting in-person for a meanngful cause. It was also a rare opportunity for Lorenzetti to share another long-time passion: performing. He graced the stage with Montreal country superstar Brittany Kennell for a memorable interpretation of “Shallow” from Bradley Cooper’s and Lady Gaga’s A Star Is Born.
He also threw a little “Hey Jude” in there.
“We started rehearsing six weeks before,” he says. “But when you do the performance and get it right, it’s a great relief. In the end, I love to perform because it gives me balance. I can show a different side.”
Lorenzetti undeniably carries his heart on his sleeve, and without a hint of cynicism, he continues to draw inspiration from being around amazing and passionate people. BFL CANADA has been an important financial partner for women’s hockey in this country, and last year the Barry F. Lorenzetti Centre for Women Entrepreneurship and Leadership was established at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University.
His passion for creativity and talent extends to artists as well. It inspired him to create Magjusjen Entertainment. The company started with a remount of Vittorio Rossi’s The Chain, but the pandemic brought their next projects to the silver screen, with a filmed version of the play being shown at select Guzzo cinemas. They just finished filming the second of a Rossi trilogy, Legacy, and they’ll be returning to the theatre as originally intended.
Rossi’s stories are important to Lorenzetti not just because they speak to the Italian-Canadian experience, including the internment of Italian-Canadians during the Second World War (the subject of Rossi’s play Paradise by the River), but also like Lorenzetti, Rossi is from Ville-Émard.
“Vittorio still lives there, not too far from where I grew up. We go for walks together in the old neighbourhood,” Lorenzetti says.
“It’s not only about giving back to my old community. It’s about telling these important stories through the eyes of a truly great storyteller. I’m proud to help share these stories of the Italian community in this country.
To learn more or support the foundation, visit fondationlorenzetti.org. To keep up with performances and premieres: magjusjenentertainment.ca.