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'Nobody said anything': Former student recalls sexual advances by Frank Stronach

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A former student and scholarship recipient at the company once helmed by Frank Stronach is speaking out about an “unwelcome but not illegal” sexual interaction involving the billionaire in the 1980s, when he was in his 50s and she was 19 years old.

Jane Boon told CTV News Toronto in an interview about how she was first flattered at the attention the auto parts magnate paid her, but then felt “outmanoeuvred” by him as she ended up staying the night with him at a guest house controlled by the company, Magna International.

“It was outrageous,” recalled Boon in an interview on Monday. “Fifty-four-year-old CEOs should not be sleazing on 19-year-old students in their employ.”

Boon said she shared what happened with close friends at the time, but didn’t go public because she feared losing a scholarship that could jump-start her career.

“I knew that in saying anything I would be basically losing two years of my life. What happened was unwelcome. But it didn’t seem illegal,” Boon said.

Other alleged sexual interactions involving Stronach, who is now 91, have resulted in 13 criminal charges involving 10 women, with incidents dating back as far as the late 1970s to February of this year.

Magna has said it has no knowledge of the events.

Stronach’s lawyer, Brian Greenspan, said in a statement, “In many free and democratic societies, the identities of both the accuser and the accused are protected when the police initiate a charge against a citizen. This is not the case in Canada.

“Frank Stronach, like all Canadians, values the time-honoured legal principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty. However, unlike most Canadians, he faces the reputational damage which constant media attention attracts. Although gratified by the many expressions of support he has received, we ask that the public respect the fundamental precept that Mr. Stronach remains innocent of any wrongdoing and that he will respond to the allegations in a fair and public court of law,” the statement said.

READ MORE: Sex assault case of billionaire businessman Frank Stronach back in court in October

Stronach’s statement did not address Boon’s story. She said she was the only woman who was selected for the scholarship at GMI, now Kettering University, in Flint, Mich., by Magna, a scholarship worth some $250,000.

Stronach invited her to his office and offered her encouragement in her career, she said.

He also invited her to Magna’s annual shareholder meeting at Roy Thompson Hall in 1986, she recalled, and then to an after party at Rooney’s, his Toronto restaurant.

“I was game. And so flattered by the attention. Then, things got weird,” she said. Stronach danced with her and fed her strawberries, she said.

“Stronach announces to the driver that I’ve had too much to drink. That I’m in no condition to drive back to Guelph. And that he will drive me to the guest house,” she said.

The guest house was in Magna-owned Simeon Park, which is described on Magna’s website as a facility “established to provide a setting for peaceful and natural experiences for Magna employees and their invited guests.” The materials say the park closes at 8 p.m.

“There was this delay where it all sort of clicked together in my head. I was like, ‘Oh boy. I’ve just messed up. I did something really stupid. I think I’m going to have to sleep with him now,’” she said.

Boon said as soon as she heard of the charges this year, she phoned the Peel Regional Police, who interviewed her. She said she felt treated very well and is encouraging others who may have information to get in touch with them and further their investigation.

Boon said she has a lot of questions about what, if anything, Magna employees knew about what their CEO may have been up to. And, as an engineer, she says people should ask whether there were systems in place at Magna to send women to him.

"I have no idea if anyone else [was a] witting or unwitting participants in the scheme. I was in an enormous restaurant. Hundreds of people. Nobody said anything,” she said.

The experience soured her on engineering, she said. She is now a writer. 

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