Thomas John Bata 1914 –2008

Autor: Milan Zelený | Datum: 12.09.2008
Reprinted from the Special Commemorative Issue - Thomas John Bata, 08/09/2008, Baťa Newsflash with a permission of the publisher (Dessy Todorova, Director of Brand Development).
Today, the Bata Shoe Organization continues to serve its customers throughout the world. The doors of our stores, factories, warehouses and offices are open for business as usual. However, these days are unlike any other days in our 114 year history.
Our company will never be the same again. Thomas J. Bata, our patriarch and the visionary who built on his father’s successes to grow the Bata Shoe Organization into one of the largest industrial organizations of the 20thcentury, passed away suddenly but peacefully, with family members at his side, in Toronto, on September 1, 2008.
On September 17th, he would have turned 94. We will miss him. Despite his advancing age, he was constantly on-the-go. His passion for productand people was an inspiration to us all.

Shoemaker To The World

Thomas J. Bata was many things to many people – statesman, industrialist, patriot, philanthropist, father and husband. But above all else, he was a shoemaker. Mr. Bata loved shoes. He was fond of recounting how the very structure of his hands was attributable to genetics – from seven generations of cobblers before him, trimming leather soles from the lasts by hand.
He loved all aspects of managing the business on a day-to-day basis, but clearly his favourite activity was touring Bata operations across the globe, learning about his two favourite topics, products and people, and motivating those around him to do better, aim higher and never be satisfied with the status quo. He logged countless millions of miles travelling the globe, an impressive feat for a man whose own father had been taken from him at a very young age in a tragic airplane accident.
A visit from Mr. Bata to a factory was viewed with much anticipation and often more than a little trepidation by the local management. More often than not, there would be elaborate welcoming ceremonies featuring local dancers, choirs and other forms of entertainment, but in all cases followed immediately by a tour of the factory and an inspection of products. If a product was not right or if the standard systems were not being followed, Mr. Bata would immediately make his views known. He alway made a point of speaking with employees, whether they worked in the office or in the factory or in the stores. His charm and gentle humour was truly inspirational.

The Moral Testament

Deep within Mr. Bata was an unshakeable commitment to entrepreneurship and the betterment of his employees and their communities. His father’s moral testament was that the Bata Shoe Organization was to be “treated not as a source of private wealth, but as a public trust, a means of improving living standards within the community and providing customers with good value for their money”. Put simply, business had a broader social role than to simply make a profit. Under Mr. Bata’s leadership, the Bata Shoe Organization has provided employment opportunities for thousands of people who would not otherwise have had those opportunities. In many countries, Bata employees and their families have access to company-sponsored schools, health care and social facilities
Thomas J. Bata was truly a leader in the concept of corporate and social responsibility to one’s employees.

A World Statesman

Mr. Bata was a familiar figure on the world stage. Although unpretentious and relaxed when talking to customers in a shop, Mr. Bata was equally comfortable in the presence of royalty and power. He counted many world leaders as friends. He and Mrs. Bata helped Mother Theresa in her crusade to counter poverty in the slums of Calcutta. Vaclav Havel, the first President of the independent Czech Republic, considered Mr. Bata a confidant and mentor. He was a constant figure in the halls of the World Economic Forum in Davos, providing the next generation of international business and political leaders with advice based on his lifetime of experiences.
As a consequence of his leadership and substantial contributions over decades of service to communities around the globe, he collected many honours and awards. In addition to his many university doctorates, he received the Order of T.G. Masaryk in Czechoslovakia. In 2007 he proudly received the First Lifetime Award for Responsible Capitalism in the United Kingdom. He was a Companion of the Order of Canada. This is the highest civilian honour that his adopted country bestows, and placed him in the company of many Canadian Prime Ministers and other Canadian legends.

Our Customer, Our Master

Thomas J. Bata would most want to be remembered as a servant. He enthusiastically and devotedly served his customers and his employees. His business card stated “Senior Shoe Salesman”. He insisted that every pair of shoes imprinted with his name be perfect. He was determined to provide employment to people in areas of the world where others would not. All of those employees would be trained to Bata standards. Mr. Bata wanted to make the world a better place than he found it. There is no doubt that in his own way, through his dedication to the ideals of corporate and social responsibility and entrepreneurship, he has left his footprint on humanity. There is also no doubt that he expects each and every one of us to do likewise, to make our own contribution and to make a positive diference.
Sonja, Tom Jr., Christiane, Monica, Rosemarie, their spouses and the grandchildren gratefully acknowledge and thank-you for the outpouring of condolences and the memories that you have shared. You can write to the family care of Bata Limited, 12 Concorde Place, Toronto, Canada, M3C 3R8 or via email at on
Thomas John Bata’s funeral mass and commemoration was held on Friday, September 5th at The Franciscan Church of St. Bonaventure in Toronto, Canada. A further celebration of his life was held in Zlin, Czech Republic on Tuesday, September 16th. A future Newsflash will report on these events.
David Marshall, Leslie Tenenbaum

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