A Life's Story

January 09, 2019

Printer's gamble on lottery tickets paid off handsomely

When Lawrie Pollard became the third generation to join his family’s company, it was a commercial print shop specializing in the printing of advertising and stationery.

Now, thanks to Pollard’s vision and foresight — and risk-taking — Pollard Banknote is a leading supplier of instant tickets for more than five dozen lottery and charitable organizations around the world.

MARC GALLANT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Decades after Lawrie Pollard shifted his focus to printing lottery tickets, Pollard Banknote employs more than 1,100 people.

MARC GALLANT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Decades after Lawrie Pollard shifted his focus to printing lottery tickets, Pollard Banknote employs more than 1,100 people.

Pollard died on Friday at St. Boniface Hospital. He was 90.

Former Manitoba premier Gary Filmon said Pollard was a pillar in both the business and philanthropic communities.

“I have nothing but wonderful memories of Lawrie for so many of the things he represented in our community,” Filmon, who has been a member of the company’s board, said on Wednesday.

“I am a great admirer of him for his business acumen and having the vision to turn his company into a specialty producer of gaming and lottery products.”

Lawrence Oliver Pollard was born on Jan. 26, 1928, and was only 19 when he joined his father at the Saults and Pollard commercial print company, located inside the same building that housed the Manitoba Free Press.

Doug Pollard, Lawrie’s son and a co-chief executive officer at the company, said the Free Press was then a weekly publication and his great-grandfather was a printer.

Doug said when the Free Press decided to become a daily publication, it sold off the extra printing work to Saults and Pollard, and by the 1960s the company was able to expand to the point that it moved its operations to Fort Garry.

But by the 1970s, Doug said, his dad had the foresight to realize the company was in jeopardy with the introduction of photocopying machines, and he spent the next few years trying to find something else it could produce.

“He tried printing cheques, financial security documents, standardized tests and then he thought banknotes,” Doug said. “But then the federal government announced the dollar coin would replace the dollar bill and he cancelled that.

“We continue to be known for a product we never produced.”

That’s when Pollard, then in his 50s, decided to bet the farm — actually the company, his own home and his financial future — on a new product: instant scratch-and-win tickets.

Pollard’s older brothers didn’t want to take on the risk, so he bought them out, and then he took on a second mortgage on his house and a multimillion-dollar bank loan to buy completely new machinery to produce the tickets.

The move paid off. More than three decades later, Pollard Banknote has five manufacturing plants across North America, employs more than 1,100 staff and can produce 12 billion tickets annually. It currently serves more than 60 lottery and charitable gaming organizations worldwide.

“To have the willingness to take that risk — and to pull it off — he was very successful, but he did it in a way he was very proud of,” Doug said.

“And he was grateful for the work of all the people in our company who helped pull it off.”

Pollard served as president of the company from 1960 to 1997, and then became chairman and later chairman emeritus. He was a past president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, was named Manitoba’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 1991 and has been inducted into the Manitoba Business Hall of Fame.

Pollard is survived by his wife of 61 years, Frances; three sons, Gordon, John and Doug; two daughters, Shelagh and Barbara; and 13 grandchildren.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

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