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50 Most Influential 2012: a ranking of Toronto’s top tycoons, backroom operators and supersize egos

28 | Sheldon Levy

28 | Sheldon Levy, 63, Ryerson University

Aside from condo builders, few people have done more to reshape the downtown core. Through sheer force of will and the balls to phone up just about anyone and ask for cash, Levy has transformed a once lightweight polytechnic institute into a respected university. He rang up suburb king Peter Gilgan, the head of Mattamy Homes and a former Ryerson parent, and came away with a promise for $15 million. His is a folksy, casual pitch, but he’s got edge, too: when the federal government was late with its contribution to the overhaul of Maple Leaf Gardens, Levy told the press that if Ryerson students didn’t get their much-needed recreation centre, they’d have Harper to blame (the funds quickly came through). The resulting $60-million complex at the Gardens is a triumph, and Levy’s following it up with a $112-million student centre at the site of the old Yonge Street Sam the Record Man. It’s no accident that you don’t hear the name Rye High anymore. PART-TIME GIGS: Board member of the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences and the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation; on the steering committee of the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance.