Born September 27, 1927, in the village of Gabresh, in the Kostursko region of Macedonia, Steve Stavro emigrated to Canada with his parents at the age of 7. They opened a butcher shop in downtown Toronto, later turning it into a grocery store. That grocery store gradually turned into a chain of stores which Steve took over from his father upon his retirement. He then proceeded to grow this chain of small stores into the gigantic warehousestyle chain known as Knob Hill Farms.
As an avid soccer player he played centre forward for the Duke of Connaught Public School soccer team, who eventually went on to become Toronto District Champions. A devout fan ever since, he was involved in the organization and management of the Continental Soccer League in 1959, the International Soccer League in 1960, the Eastern Canada Soccer League in late 1960, the United Soccer Association in 1966, and the North American Soccer League in 1968.
With the continuing success of Knob Hill Farms he decided to shift his focus into his sports interests. Venturing into thoroughbred horse racing, his Knob Hill Stables started modestly but went on to become one of the country’s most successful racing stables. From horse racing he moved into sports entertainment, becoming the majority shareholder in the Toronto Maple Leafs. He then purchased a majority interest in the National Basketball Association franchise the Toronto Raptors. With the ownership of two major sports franchises in Toronto he entered the construction industry building a state-of-the-art sports stadium to house both teams - the Air Canada Centre.
Despite phenomenal success in so many business and sporting ventures Steve never forgot his roots, and the people he worked with along the way. At the height of the success of Knob Hill Farms he visited the stores every day and knew every employee by name, and would often stop to talk.
His style has always been marked by a demand for quality. Whether a chain of grocery stores, a stable of thoroughbreds, a hockey team, a basketball team or a sports stadium he never accepted second best. From his humble beginnings, assisting his father in a grocery store, to a multi-millionaire team owner Steve never forgot his heritage.
On April 24, 2006, Steve Stavro died in his home after suffering a heart attack. Survived by his wife, Sally, four daughters, nine grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren, he is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery where his tomb is adorned with the insignia of many of his achievements including The Toronto Maple Leaf, The Toronto Raptors, The Order of Canada, The Knights of Malta, Order of the Masons and a statue of Alexander The Great mounted on his steed, sword thrust high in the air, a fitting metaphor for his life, riding into the future aiming for the sky.
Honours and Awards
• Honorary lifetime Director of the Board of Directors of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
• Honorary Director of the Ontario Jockey Club
• 1993, won the coveted “TOBA Award” as North American Thoroughbred Breeder of the Year
• 1992, the Order of Canada
• 1992, City of Toronto Award of Merit
• 1992, The Beth Sholom Brotherhood Humanitarian Award
• 1991, the Ellis Island Award of Distinction
• 1988, Decorated Knight Commander, Knights of Malta
• 1987, Kupat Holim “Man of the Year”
• 1980, received The Food Industry Association of Canada’s highest distinction, “The Knight of the Golden Pencil Award”