The Family Comes First
In 1971 Irving shifted his legal domicile to Bermuda, a mid-Atlantic tax haven beyond the reach of Canadian authorities. There control of the Irving companies was vested in a new echelon of Bermuda holding companies. Irving California Co. Ltd., for instance, controlled the transshipment of oil destined for his Saint John refinery; the Canadian Government unsuccessfully alleged that this allowed Irving to skim another layer of profit from his trade in oil. In Bermuda, Irving became increasingly reclusive. While remaining intimately involved in his companies' management, he shifted much operational oversight to his three sons, James (born 1928), Arthur (born 1930), and John (born 1932), all from his 1927 marriage to Harriet McNairn, who died in 1976. Each assumed responsibility for a section of the Irving empire (e.g., Arthur for Irving Oil). K.C.'s grandsons were being eased into Irving management. Unlike so many entrepreneurial patriarchs, Irving had engineered a smooth transition of executive control to his heirs.
Irving died on December 13, 1992, in Saint John and was buried in Bermuda. He was survived by his second wife, Winnifred, and by the legacy of what an aggressive strategy of vertical and horizontal integration can achieve in an economy on the margin of North America.