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History

 

A leader in the heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration sectors for over 65 years, The Master Group is the largest independent HVAC-R distributor in Eastern Canada. The company employs close to 850 dynamic and devoted individuals who serve the industry at over 38 branches and 6 distribution centres spanning from coast to coast.

Our company is a prime example of Quebec’s entrepreneurial spirit.

The origins of the Master Group go back to 1952, with the creation of Master Refrigeration Supplies to take advantage of the rapid pace of industrial development in Montreal. Under the leadership of owner Guy Forget, the company quickly became a player in the refrigeration market. After opening branches in Quebec City and Ottawa in the 1960s, Master entered into an exclusive agreement with YORK one of its key suppliers. This partnership marked a turning point in the company’s history.

The trend towards modernization, the surge in the number of shopping centres and concerns arising from the energy crisis of the 1970s presented tremendous opportunities for the sale of energy-efficient products such as York heat pumps and other specialized equipment. To accommodate its growth, the company opened a third branch in Laval.

Master survived the recession of the early 1980s and managed to increase its share of the air-conditioning market to over 50%. With the opening of branches in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New-Brunswick, the company extended its presence to include all of Eastern Canada. Operating under a new name, the Master Group, the company had become a major player in the field of building mechanicals.

Still recovering from the events of the 1980s that affected the entire industry The Master Group began the 1990s by restructuring itself. Jean-Guy Lahaie became president, with Louis St-Laurent as second-in-command and Michel Ringuet as a new partner. The three men undertook a 90-degree turn, restructuring the company by bringing together its four divisions under a single umbrella. While the business thrived thanks to a favorable business environment, the shareholders resolved to maintain their leadership position in the market by aggressively adapting to change. They brought in new talent, digitized their operations, expanded their product range and opened more branches. Alain Fournier, an influential and long-standing member of the company’s sales force, became a partner. At the dawn of the new millennium, Master was the largest independent distributor in Canada in the fields of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration.

If the 1990s were a fast jog, the early 2000s were a sprint. Master moved its head office to Boucherville, where it settled into a spacious building (over 100,000 sq. ft.) combining both office space and warehousing facilities. Through a diversification process, the company expanded its product range to such an extent that a second distribution centre was soon necessary. Through parallel efforts aimed at consolidating its heating sector, Master blazed a new trail by opening its first specialized branch in Saint-Laurent – the 25,000 sq. ft. facility was largest in its network.

The year 2006 brings changes to Master’s ownership and management structure. Louis St-Laurent became President, Michel Ringuet, CEO and Alain Fournier, Vice-President, Sales. Mindful of the challenges facing the industry, the three shareholders decided in 2008 to form a six-member management committee with the mandate to strengthen the company’s operations, increase efficiency, improve oversight and enhance the support given to the various departments.

In 2011, encouraged by its strong market position in Eastern Canada, Master expanded into the Greater Toronto Area with the acquisition of 3 branches. This breakthrough allowed Master to take an important step in its growth and set the stage for its expansion nationally. That same year Master is named one of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies, a business awards program for which it has requalified every year since.

Master took advantage of the stability of the market to focus on the implementation of an ambitious, and ultimately successfull carried out business plan. Master consolidated its operations, particularly in the ventilation and heating sectors, with new product lines, a new store dedicated to ventilation in Laval, and increased staffing in those areas. In addition, the company established itself as a major player in south western Ontario with the addition of a fourth branch and a distribution center.

In March 2014, The Master Group entered into a strategic business partnership through the sale of 65% of the company to Novacap Industries, a leading Quebec-based private investment firm. Led by a new team of members, the company put together a growth plan that would allow it to reach new heights and strengthen its leadership in North America. An important milestone in this plan reached in the fall of 2016 as Master acquired the Markham and Oakville branches of Johnson Controls' Unitary Products Group (York®) Ontario division. With its 680 employees and 29 branches firmly established in all eastern Canadian markets, Master was now well positioned to take the lead of the entire HVAC-R market in Canada.

The year 2018 marked a milestone in the company's history: Masters expansion into Western Canada. Thanks to the acquisition of Davies Supply Ltd Master gained three new branches in Calgary, Lethbridge and Saskatoon. In the same month, Master continued its westward expansion with the opening of a branch in Winnipeg, bringing the number of points of sale to 34 and the employee count to more than 750.

The final months of the year and the first quarter of 2019 witness a tremendous progression towards the Pacific. Master successively opens two distribution centers, the first in Burbany, BC, and the second, in Calgary, totaling 66,000 sq. ft. and opens new branches in Burnaby and Langley, BC as well as in Edmonton, AB.

An important and significant acquisition for the company was concluded in February 2019. JCI (Johnson Controls) awarded the distribution rights of York, its flagship brand to Master, to officially become the exclusive distributor in Canada of York residential ducted systems and commercial roof top products for all of Canada starting May 13 of the same year.