Dan Donovan was talking about his old friend and former employer, Frank Stronach, a man he hails as a genius, and Frank's daughter, Belinda. Donovan knew both Stronachs well during his four years as Magna International's vice-president of corporate affairs. When he would see them together - Frank, handsome, hard-charging, smart, Austrian-born and a poor kid made good by his wits and a willingness to take business risks; and Belinda, the rich kid born into everything - what always struck him most, despite the different lives they had led, was how similar they were."They are both very determined people," Donovan says from Ottawa, in his current chair as publisher of Ottawa Life magazine. "They are both uncompromising on certain things, in their own ways."So there is an irony there - like father, like daughter - and so this just really saddens me. I hope they can work it out."What Donovan is referring to is the Shakespearian plot twist in a Canadian business fairy tale.A story, happy at first, about a bootstraps-up-to-the-top maverick, now 86, and the daughter he always perceived as his star pupil/next in line - and her (alleged) great betrayal.It is a perceived stab in the back Frank Stronach and his wife, Elfriede, spell out in an Ontario Superior Court lawsuit seeking US$520 million in compensation and damages from Belinda, her two children, and others, in what has been a two-year old fight for control of the family firm, The Stronach Group.The allegations are untested in court. But as literature, they read as a masterwork of paternal outrages, both great and small. Stronach alleges Belinda appointed friends to jobs at "exorbitant" salaries; showed up for scheduled meetings late, or not at all; used the business kitty for parties, vacations with her children, limousine rides and expensive meals, "none of which related to legitimate business expense;" instructed employees to sell off the company jet; and, most painful perhaps, starved of funds her father's late-in-life business vision of transforming 90,000 acres in northern Florida into a vast, organic, quasi-free-range beef-cattle farm - while closing the exclusive 420-acre golf course nearby, and listing it for sale at a discounted price."Belinda has treated her father in a hurtful, disrespectful and irresponsible fashion," the suit alleges.Belinda Stronach has denied the allegations in the suit, and issued a statement Wednesday night, saying "family relationships within a business can be challenging," that her father's allegations are "untrue," and affirming that she and her children "love" him and will respond formally, "in the normal course of the court process."While the airing of the family feud has caught many by surprise, those who have followed Stronach senior's career know he didn't build an empire by trying to please everyone.Stronach frequently raised the ire of Magna shareholders, in part because the company's dual class share structure gave outsiders little power, and partly because at times his attention seemed to be elsewhere.In 2007, for example, the autoparts giant cut its dividend payout in half after spending $84 million to purchase two golf courses from Magna Entertainment. Both companies were chaired by Stronach.In a newspaper article at the time, Claude Lamoureux, who was then chief executive of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, a Magna shareholder, praised Stronach as a successful entrepreneur but said many people considered the decision of the autoparts company to purchase the golf courses "questionable."Louis Lataif, a longtime automotive executive and former Magna director who is now Dean of the School of Management at Boston University, remembers both Frank and Belinda as good listeners in the boardroom but unafraid to make their own desires known.The father and daughter were "not bashful about eventually expressing their preference" after each director had been given an opportunity to express a view, Lataif said in an email."There is typically a certain deference, in all cases, to the position of management and of the CEO in particular, and so it was with Magna."Where did the partnership between father and daughter go wrongTo get to the end, or at least to the current legal cliffhanger, it helps to revisit the start. Stronach the elder took Magna, a company he founded in his Toronto garage in 1957, and built it into a billion-dollar global behemoth. The Stronach family walked away from Magna in 2010 with more than $850-million, a lucrative consulting contract for Frank, a stake in an electric car venture (more on that later) and a new business model, centred not upon car parts but around making several marquee thoroughbred racetracks around the United States cool again - decades after their cachet as sporting destinations had declined; in fact, they were cool in the years before Belinda Stronach (she is 52) was even born.From the outside, going (virtually) all-in on racing may have looked like financial suicide, or just plain dumb. But Stronach, buoyed by the fortune he made selling car parts, has never been afraid of looking dumb. During the Magna years, he spoke of starting an airline (the idea never took off); built a luxury sports car/SUV, a concept that produced a prototype, the Torrero, in 1989, but elicited zero interest from the major automakers to produce it; and ran for Parliament as a Liberal in 1988 - losing to an optometrist named John Cole.He opened Rooney's, a Toronto bar/restaurant that existed for a spell, but was never the place to be. (He also opened Belinda's, a grown-up expression of a father's love for his child - as was the sportscar he gave her for her 16th birthday). The disco he invested in in the 1970s went bust. The glossy business magazine he launched closed. His dream of transforming Cape Breton into a tax-free autoparts manufacturing haven, well, it never came true.Jim Nicol, a former president of Magna, once compared Stronach to Thomas Edison. Edison was restless, an ideas man, and every tenth idea or so he nailed it."This is what Frank is like," Nicol told Maclean's in 1999. "He has an inquisitive mind and tremendous youthful energy. It annoys people at times. But we never know when he's going to invent another light bulb."Stronach has never stopped searching for that next light bulb, while Belinda - as entrepreneurial as her father, according to those close to the family - has been standing ever nearer to the proverbial power switch.Ed Lumley is a former federal Liberal cabinet minister who sat on Magna's board for more than 15 years, a spell that included him recommending Belinda for the top job at the autoparts giant in 2001, a move her father embraced.Lumley, like Donovan, describes Stronach as "her father's daughter."So the difference, then, might boil down to a matter of taste. Indeed. Instead of building his electric car, Stronach senior got the company involved in the manufacture of a design-award-winning electric bike, the Elby, powered by a motor developed by BionX. BionX was run by Fred Gingl, a former Magna executive, longtime Stronach confederate - and fellow Austro-Canadian. Cycling magazines hailed the Elby, which launched in 2016, as the (electric) conveyance of the future. For pure urban dwellers, it was surely the way to go.Matthew Posno is the former chief financial officer of BionX and Elby Bike Co., vertically integrated sister companies owned under the TSG umbrella. Posno describes the bike as Stronach's "brainchild," a passion play, engineered for perfection and "built for everyone." Alas, at $4,000, the Elby wasn't priced for everyone. In 2018, BionX went into receivership, with Stronach listed among the creditors - looking to recoup $22-million on a lost investment."The business was a startup," Posno says. "I still think Frank believes in the product."(Alon Ossip, chief executive of the Stronach Group Inc., and one of the individuals named in the half-billion-dollar-plus lawsuit, said in a statement that Frank Stronach had been a great autoparts engineer, but that his "recent excessive spending and numerous failed ventures put his family's wealth at risk." Ossip did not specifically name the Elby as among those ventures.)Stronach's most passionate gambit over the past eight years has been the organic, grass-fed beef cattle of Adena Farm, which, according to the court filing, Belinda hated - and did everything possible to "impair, undermine and dismantle." While the father has been dreaming of cows and electric bikes, Belinda has been doing some dabbling of her own, including in the cosmetics sector, with Age Quencher, an anti-aging, beauty enhancing elixir she became a partner in in 2016."My hair grows, like, ten times faster when I take it," Stronach said, at a launch event.She also co-founded Acasta Enterprises, a special investment vehicle that bought up companies with the aim of selling them at a profit, an end goal that has unravelled to the tune of millions in losses and led to Stronach's departure from a company directorship in 2017.Oddly, it is in the core family business - horse racing and entertainment - where father and daughter can be viewed as an effective one-two punch. Ross Peddicord is the executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board. In a previous work life, he was the horse-racing beat writer with the Baltimore Sun for 20 years. Belinda, he says, wants to make the races into a rock concert. To bring in bands, and scads of rich, young, beautiful and fancy people - and all the other bells and whistles - to venues like Baltimore's Pimlico, which TSG owns, and make the actual running of the horses just one component of a much larger show."They do this in Europe all the time," Peddicord said. "On Friday nights in Ireland, after the work week is over - and after the horse race is over - they have a concert, and it's so much fun, and I think that is the component Belinda has been trying to bring in."Frank, to a degree, wanted to do that. But he is also much more tradition-bound, because of his generation. He has large racing stables, large breeding farms and has had national champion racehorses, so his emphasis always seemed to be on the horses."The Pegasus Cup, the world's richest race, held at TSG's Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. was the perfect marriage of the Stronach visions. Belinda, in a speech in Washington in May 2017, even credited her father with the idea - of bringing in the world's top horses with a $US12-million purse on the line. (Belinda didn't mention the $30-million giant bronze Pegasus statue her father also had built at Gulfstream). Then she went and tweaked the idea, just for the kids, by using Conor McGregor, the smart-alecky, Irish mixed-martial arts fighter - and global brand - to promote it in a series of videos ending with McGregor, stripped down to his skivvies, as the race's 13th jockey."Traditional racing folks, they embrace these things, but they just don't know how to do it," Peddicord says. "Fortunately Frank has a daughter in Belinda who was hip and cool and a world traveller, and can pull it off - if they don't completely destroy one another first."Stay tuned.