Lawrence Heisey

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William Lawrence Heisey
W Lawrence Heisey New York City 1985.jpg
W Lawrence Heisey ca 1985
Born(1930-05-29)May 29, 1930
DiedMay 28, 2009(2009-05-28) (aged 78)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Known forPresident of Harlequin Enterprises Limited

William Lawrence Heisey, OC (May 29, 1930 – May 28, 2009) was a Canadian businessman and philanthropist. He was president and chairman of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.

Early life[edit]

Born in Toronto, Ontario he was the son of Karl Brooks Heisey, mining engineer. He went to Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute class of 1948, before receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Trinity College and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.[1]

Business career[edit]

Larry Heisey at Gods Lake 1967

Heisey joined Procter & Gamble in 1954 and left in 1967 to serve as executive Vice President in Sales for Standard Broadcasting.

From 1971 to 1982, he was President of Harlequin Enterprises Limited. In 1971 under Heisey's leadership Harlequin bought Mills & Boon a publisher of romance novels making Harlequin the largest publisher of Romance novels in the world. From 1982 to 1990[2] Heisey served as Chairman of Harlequin. Described as a "marketing genius", he revolutionised the sale and marketing of books in the international publishing industry.[3] At Harlequin drawing upon his experiences at Procter & Gamble he first put free books in boxes of detergent and feminine sanitary napkins.[4] Under his leadership Harlequin was the first publisher to sell books in drug stores and grocery stores. He pioneered the mail order book club and, contrary to publishing industry practise, refused to sell publishing rights to foreign publishing companies establishing new publishing ventures in new markets.[3]

He served as a director for Aetna Life Insurance Co. of Canada, Business Depot Ltd., and Staples Inc.


A woman with a spade, seen from behind Van Gogh

He was involved with the Toronto French School where he was a Director from 1966 to 1973, Chairman from 1967 to 1971, and Foundation Trustee from 1978 to 1982. He was a Governor of the Banff Centre from 1982 to 1988. He was a member of the Board of Governors of York University from 1985 to 1997 and established The W. Lawrence Heisey Graduate Awards in Fine Arts that recognize outstanding ability and achievement in scholarly and/or creative work for students on the Fine Arts graduate programme at York University.[5]

He was a Director of the Canadian Opera Company from 1984 to 1986 and the Chamber Players of Toronto. In addition, he served as chairman of the commercial division of the United Way of Canada in Toronto.[6] He was also member of the Advisory Board of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.[7] and president of the National Ballet School Foundation. He and his wife Ann made a major financial contribution to help fund a new production of The Nutcracker by The National Ballet of Canada in 1995.[8]

In 1994, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada[9] in recognition for being a "leader in Canadian business and philanthropy". He and his wife Ann Heisey donated a Vincent van Gogh painting called "A woman with a spade, seen from behind" c. 1885 to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1997.[10]


  1. ^ Publishing Romance: The History of an Industry, 1940s to the Present By John Markert Mcfarland & Co Inc Pub 2016
  2. ^ Grescoe, Paul (1996). The Merchants of Venus- Inside Harlequin and the Empire of Romance. Vancouver: Raincoast Books.
  3. ^ a b Kelly, Cathal (May 29, 2009). "Harlequin President was marketing genius". Toronto Star.
  4. ^ Faircloth, Kelly (March 19, 2015). "How Harlequin became the most famous name in romance". Pictorial.
  5. ^ "Graduate Program in Visual Arts: Financial Information & Awards". York University. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved January 27, 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation biennial report". New York, New York. 1997–98.
  8. ^ "Aaron Schwebel Appointed Concertmaster". The National Ballet of Canada. January 29, 2015. Archived from the original on September 7, 2015. Retrieved September 25, 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  9. ^ "Order of Canada: William Lawrence Heisey, O.C., M.B.A." Governor General of Canada. Appointment October 19, 1994 Investiture May 3, 1995
  10. ^ "Vincent van Gogh. A woman with a spade, seen from behind". Art Gallery of Ontario. Retrieved September 25, 2015.

External links[edit]