Chumming Up To Jim Waters: The Missing Years
Scion to the CHUM empire created by his father Allan Waters, Jimmy has been out of the limelight for the better part of 20 years. In the following story, he fills in the missing years.
By Dave Charles
Nailing down Jim “Jimbo” Waters to do an interview wasn’t easy. It took months. But Dave Charles was determined to land this scion to the legendary CHUM founder Allan Waters and get his story. His apparent reticence was in part because he appears to enjoy being out of the limelight and being a family man, and in part because at the time he was constantly on the road with his newfound love–the Erie Otters hockey team.
The profile started off as a Q&A, but intentionally or otherwise, our subject chose to respond by e-mail in his own fashion and tell his own story as he wished. So, the questions have been edited out. They interrupted the flow. What comes across in the following story told in the first-person is a lad who grew into a man and still deeply holds the lessons his father taught him about business and interactions with others. He’s respectful, and very much a family man. We hope you enjoy the read. And thanks to Dave Charles for doggedly pushing to get the story from a well-liked young man who just up and vanished when the company was sold.
I walked out of 1331 Yonge Street on August 31, 2006, after working in broadcasting for 35 years. You realize pretty quickly that it can be a pretty lonely time. I was only 55 years old so all my friends were still working. I was very fortunate that my wife, Sheila, was happy to have me around full-time. We have done some travelling and basically just hung out together. We all know that there aren’t any 9-5 jobs in broadcasting so there wasn’t much time for just hanging out together over the years.
I remember at the dinner to celebrate the successful sale of CHUM Limited I said to one of the gentlemen who helped put the deal together that it felt weird to not have a job to go to the next day. He said “Oh yes you do! Your job now is to manage your money so it can continue to take care of your family after you are gone!”
We have two wonderful daughters, Maxine and Ellie. They both had the opportunity to work at CHUM prior to the sale. They both love music and the entertainment business. I know they would have thrived working at CHUM, but unfortunately, that opportunity went out the window with the sale. So, at that moment, I decided that I would use the funds that came to me from the sale to support their dreams. Being able to do that for them has been really rewarding.
Then the big change for me came when I purchased the Erie Otters hockey club in 2015. I like to say that I’m the idiot that purchased the team just as Connor McDavid was leaving! However, he didn’t win a championship during his time there, but we did in 2017...
Having been out of the day-to-day for nearly 17 years, I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer your question about radio's future or the upcoming (CRTC) radio review.
I love radio as much as I ever did; I listen to it every day! I still quietly critique what I hear. It's a 4-hour drive to Erie so I listen quite a bit. Considering all the competitive platforms that radio faces today, the CRTC would do well to keep the rules and regulations to a minimum. The commission should get out of the way when it comes to music content regulations. We should all be proud of the music that Canada has produced, and is producing! In fact, I have privately provided funds to support Canadian artists over the years. Broadcasters don’t need someone to tell them how and when to play it!
What did I learn from my dad? He should have written a book. I miss him every day. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t use something that he taught me in one way or another. Here are a few...
It’s not very complicated! Be humble! Be honest!
I watched how he treated people. It didn’t matter who it was or what they did...everyone was the same!
He always reminded me...if you were on the other side of the desk, how would you want to be treated?
Know your weaknesses and surround yourself with people whose strength is in those areas.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
Don’t be afraid to use the collaborative approach to decision-making. The people you work with are your greatest resource...use them...ask them what they think!
Hire the best people. Tell them what you expect and then get out of the way!
I could go on and on here, but I could not have had a better mentor.
I wasn’t in favour of selling the company, but I knew, given the circumstances and the options we had, it was the right decision. CTV had never owned any radio so I offered to stay and help with the transition. (CTV president and CEO Ivan) Fecan said ‘No thanks’.
I haven’t totally disengaged from the media. I funded the application and building of CHOP-FM at Pickering College in Newmarket. Some CHUM friends–Dave Haydu (Geets), Duff Roman, Gord James and Brad Jones, all helped launch the station in 2007. Geets is still our engineer and is a guest at all our board meetings which I chair. As I write this, we are hoping for CRTC approval of our application to have CHOP-FM become a community station serving Aurora and Newmarket.
I also sit on the board of Starboard Communications in Belleville. I was honoured to be asked to join the board which includes John Sherratt, (the late) Fred Sherratt, Fern Belisle and Jim Blundell. The Waters/Sherratt relationship has continued!
I continue to support CMW annually and, as I mentioned previously, I have funded some Canadian music projects.
Has wealth made me happier?
I have always been a generally happy guy. What would I have to complain about?
I had the opportunity of a lifetime to work at one of Canada’s most legendary radio stations, 1050 CHUM when I was 20 years old. The list of people that I had the opportunity to work with and learn from at CHUM over the next 35 years is endless. I was also fortunate to own four stations with my brother and sister, two in Kingston and two in Brockville. What an unbelievable learning experience that was. Eventually, we sold the four stations to CHUM. The bonus was I met my wife, Sheila, during my time in Kingston.
I like to think about having wealth the way that Winston Churchill described it...we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
Slight correction...CHUM Limited owned the Ottawa Roughriders for 10 years. Dad loved the CFL! The first live sporting event I attended was an Argo game at Varsity Stadium with Dad. It was hard to cheer against the Argos for those 10 years. We had the Argo broadcasts on 1050 CHUM when Pinball Clemons was playing and the team was owned by Bruce McNall, Wayne Gretzky and John Candy. Fun times!
The CFL is like any sports league right now, we are all trying to attract young people and to be inclusive. I feel the CFL has a strong leader in Randy Ambrosie.
The Otters! The only thing I wanted to try outside of broadcasting was sports ownership. In March 2015 I got a phone call asking me if I had any interest in purchasing a hockey team in the OHL.
Sure, where is it located?
There are 3 teams in the OHL that are located in the US: Erie, Flint and Saginaw. We closed the deal on July 17, 2015. My friend and financial advisor, Larry Chapman, and I went to Erie to see the arena during the playoffs in April and we saw Connor McDavid play live for the first time.
I had never seen anyone skate that fast and do magic things with the puck at the same time. We are all seeing him do the same with the Edmonton Oilers, game after game. Clearly the best in the game today. Unfortunately for me, McDavid was drafted that June by Edmonton so he was gone before I owned the team.
So, I don’t actually have a McDavid story of my own but I do know that wherever the Otters played that season the crowds were huge. As you would expect, there were tons of kids waiting after every game to get Connors’ autograph. He would not get on the bus before he signed every one.
Two years later, with names like Strome, Debrincat, Cirelli, Cernak, the Raddysh brothers, Fogele, and many others, we won the OHL championship!
My story...it is Labour Day weekend 2015 and I am about to see the Otters play live for the first time as the owner.
It’s an exhibition game but I am pumped.
I walk into the Erie Insurance Arena during the warm-up. I’m speaking with a parent when something hits me on the top of my head. Someone shot a puck over the glass, it hit high up on the wall and dropped on my head. Blood everywhere! It is spurting! Rush me into the trainer’s room and the doctor has a look. Two choices...freeze it and stitch it or just staple it. Five staples later I was good to go. Might have been a double scotch in there somewhere.
I try to get to every game, home and away. There is no place I would rather be than watching the Otters play live!
When you are talking about any kind of legacy at CHUM, you are talking about Allan Waters. Hundreds of talented, loyal staff members –you were one of them Dave – all contributed a little to the Allan Waters legacy that was all about a company that cared deeply about its staff and the communities it served and did it better than most.