Dealers, friends mourn passing of Birchwood Group founder


By Myron Love

– Colleagues and competitors of Birchwood Auto Group founder Bob Chipman – who passed away on September 9 at the age of 87 – remembered him as a mentor and man of his word.

Chipman was the founder of the Megill-Stephenson Company, which includes the Birchwood Auto Group (Winnipeg’s largest multi-store auto operation – representing 17 different manufacturers’’ brands), National Leasing and additional real estate, construction, sports and entertainment and financial interests.

One of those interests is True North Sports and Entertainment (of which his son, Mark, is the president and CEO). True North owns the Winnipeg Jets.

“Bob was a great guy with a wonderful smile,” said Glen Cross who got to know Chipman when they were operating rival daily rental companies. (Cross was Budget, Chipman represented Hertz). 

“He was honest and easy to deal with. He never got excited. It was a pleasure to have known him.”

Fellow new car dealer Jim Gauthier noted that he and Bob Chipman “go way back” to when Chipman was in partnership with Sherrold Haddad at the original Birchwood Chevrolet store.

“Bob was very competitive, but he was always fair,” recalled Gauthier, who also served on different MMDA committees with Chipman.

“Bob was an honourable gentleman. You could take his word to the bank. All dealings I had with him were very good.”

Used-car dealer Earl Edmondson was still a teenager when he first met Bob Chipman. 

“My dad and I both worked for Mr. Chipman,” he said.  “I remember the first lesson I learned from him. I was 15 and walking around the lot with him. He kept bending over to pick up garbage and wrappers laying around on the lot. He was always good to me and my family. He will be missed. My thoughts are with his family.”

Doug Murray said Chipman was a real gentleman.

“Everyone in the industry respected him.  Birchwood Motors set the standard that all the other dealers aspired to.”

Although a scion of the very successful Murray Auto Group (with over 30 dealerships across Canada), Doug noted that his father, Clare, in 1980, sent Doug to Winnipeg to learn the auto business from Bob Chipman. 

“Dad felt that Bob would be the best person in the business to mentor me,” Murray recalled.

He was a leader in the community as well as in the auto industry. He gave of his time and money to numerous community organizations. He was inducted into the Citizens Hall of Fame in 2007.

He died at home surrounded by his family after a year-long battle with bone cancer. He was predeceased by his wife, Sheila, in 2005.