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Former teddy bear mogul runs for Longboat's At-Large seat

Jack Wilson, 80, hopes to bring international business experience to the Longboat Town Commission.

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  • | 8:30 a.m. November 15, 2017
Jack Wilson, 80, has served on Longboat Key's code enforcement board for two years, he says.
Jack Wilson, 80, has served on Longboat Key's code enforcement board for two years, he says.
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Jack Wilson has always enjoyed winning.

He’s been fortunate to have done it a lot in his life, he said — whether it was striking a deal with Walt Disney World, meeting Princess Diana twice or working his way up through the Toronto Transit Commission while studying part time.

“It’s back to the future now,” Wilson said.

"I thought that [the Town Commission] would be somewhere where I could make a real contribution." — Jack Wilson

That’s because Wilson, 80 — a qualified candidate for an At-Large seat on the Longboat Key Town Commission — has come full circle from his work in the capital of Ontario, Canada, more than five decades ago.

And the Canadian native has come a long way since. It took Wilson some 10 years to complete his bachelor’s degree at home in Toronto while he worked his way to becoming an executive assistant for the general manager at the Transit Commission, he said.

By the time he’d received his degree, Wilson said he was ready for something new. So he applied for a job as the Canadian director of operations for Letraset, a company known for creating rub-on typefaces, he said.

Not long after he’d joined the company, Wilson said he was asked if he’d like to move to England to work as director of European operations, from which he ascended to director of world operations.

After nearly a decade with at Letraset, Wilson said his boss sent him to a months-long Harvard Business School course in Vevey, Switzerland.

“I got the bug,” Wilson said. “When I got out of there, I went to see Bill, the chairman and CEO, and said, ‘you’ve just spent a fortune on me and I’ve got the bug now — I want to own my own business.’ ”

After a few missed opportunities, Wilson said he found a struggling collectable doll company that he and his investors thought might make a good venture: Peggy Nisbet Limited.

So Wilson bought it, he said.

It was there that he met Alison, the production director, daughter of Peggy Nisbet and now his wife of 41 years. The two of them eventually renamed the business The House of Nisbet, which produced collectable dolls and teddy bears sold across the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Wilson said.

Wilson traveled often in this line of work, he said, making frequent trips to New York City, where he met Princess Diana for the first time, and Florida, where he and his family went nearly every year for a collectable doll and teddy bear week at Walt Disney World.

That’s how they came to know Longboat Key.

A friend had recommended the island and a few places to stay, particularly the Casa Del Mar, Wilson said, and he loved the area so much he became a United States citizen and moved here.

Wilson said he has served on the code enforcement board for a two years and worked as an outside accounting consultant for the Ringling Library Association.

“I like to be busy,” Wilson said. “I read about the commission of Longboat Key and I thought that would be somewhere where I could make a real contribution.”


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