Fleck was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on February 10, 1931 to Robert Douglas and Norma Marie Fleck.
He married Margaret Evelyn Fleck (née Humprhys) in 1953. They have four children—Robert, Ellen, David and Christopher, five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. In 1982, Margaret was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada and has had an active career as a minister and certified chaplain.
Fleck is interested in the arts, is a private collector, and in sports, particularly tennis.
Fleck was educated at the University of Toronto Schools. He earned a BA (Gold Medalist 1953) from the University of Western Ontario, where he received an entrance scholarship for best marks in mathematics and science. In 1964, he attended Harvard University as a Ford Foundation fellow. At Harvard, he was awarded a doctorate of business administration in finance (DBA 1964) with a doctoral thesis on the investment policies of Canadian life insurance companies. In June 2002, he was awarded a degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa by the University of Toronto and in September 2010, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Sacred Letters honoris causa (DSL) by the University of Trinity College.
Chairman and CEO of Fleck Manufacturing Inc., a company he founded in 1954, manufacturer of wire and cable, power cords and wiring assemblies for the appliance, automotive and electronic industries with plants in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.A., until it was acquired by Noma Industries Limited in August 1994.
He was chairman of ATI Technologies Inc until its acquisition by Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. in 2006. He was also chairman of Alias Research Inc., 3D computer graphics software company, until it was acquired by Silicon Graphics Inc. in June 1995. Director and Executive Committee member of CUC Ltd., a large private cable TV company, until it was acquired by Shaw Cable in May 1995.
Director of Promis Systems Corporation Limited until it was acquired by PRI Automation in March, 2000. He was a director of many other public and private companies including Certicom Inc., Rogers Multimedia Ltd., Zurich Insurance, Travellers Insurance, Channel 47 Inc., Colonial Homes Ltd. He was once the Chairman of NGRAIN Corporation, Vancouver, a provider of 3D simulation solutions for maintenance and training in the defense industry.
Fleck was also active in the Young Presidents' Organization and was its international president in 1972-73.
Fleck was on the faculty of the Harvard Business School teaching first-year Finance in the MBA Programme 1964-1966. From 1966-1970, he was Professor and Associate Dean, Faculty of Administration Studies and Director, M.B.A. Program at York University.
He has also taught, as a visiting Professor, at the Keio Business School of Tokyo, Japan; INSEAD (The European Institute of Business Administration in Fontainebleau, France) and the University of Western Ontario. He has taught courses in corporate finance, business policy and business/government relations.
From July 1, 1978, until June 30, 1979, he was the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies, Business and Public Management, at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Professor Fleck is the emeritus M. Wallace McCutcheon Professor of Business Government Relations at the Faculty of Management, University of Toronto and a Senior Fellow, Massey College.
His publications include Business Can Succeed!, Understanding the Political Environment (with A. Litvak, Canada Publishing Corporation), Canada Can Compete!, Strategic Management of the Canadian Industrial Portfolio (with J.R. D'Cruz), Institute for Research on Public Policy, and Yankee Canadians in the Global Economy, Strategic Management of U.S. Subsidiaries under Free Trade. Has co-authored with Professor J. D'Cruz several articles for the Business Quarterly, one of which, "The Globalization of Manufacturing", received the Silver Medal in the Deloitte & Touche "Best of the Best" Awards covering the first thirty years of the Business Quarterly.
From 1969-1971 was Executive Director and a member of the Committee on Government Productivity, responsible for carrying out a study that led to a major re-organization of the Ontario Government. Prior to joining COGP, he served on the Federal Department of Transport Task Force on goals and objectives.
During 1974 and 1975 was the Secretary of the Cabinet. For the two previous years was Chief Executive Officer, Office of the Premier, Government of Ontario. From January 1, 1976, until September 1, 1978, was Deputy Minister of Industry and Tourism, Government of Ontario.
He was a founding director of the Public Policy Forum, was active in the Niagara Institute and Chairman of BCNI's Steering Committee on Constitutional Reform, and was a Director of the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
In 2013 he was awarded the title of “Legend of the OPS” with a square on the Ontario Public Service quilt dedicated in his honour. In May 2014, he was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal of Distinction in Public Service, Ontario’s highest honour for public service.
Jim Fleck is one of Canada’s most active cultural philanthropists. For over 35 years, he has generously donated his time, expertise and financial support to a number of arts organizations across the country.
Chairman of the Council for Business and the Arts in Canada, Chairman of the Ontario Minister’s Advisory Council on Arts and Culture, President of the Art Gallery of Ontario Foundation, Harbourfront Foundation, a past Director and Chairman of Tennis Canada, a Director of the Canadian Institute of Advanced Research, and was founding President of The Power Plant, Contemporary Art at Harbourfront, Toronto, Ontario. He led the private side of a public-private collaboration with the City of Toronto to create and build the Yo-Yo Ma Toronto Music Garden, inspired by the music of Bach. He is a member of the Chief Executives Organization and was on the Canadian Council of Chief Executives.
Fleck was involved in setting up the Canadian Arts Summit, bringing together the volunteer, artistic and administrative heads of the fifty largest visual and performing arts institutions and served as Chairman of the Second Arts Summit in 1999.
He was active in the leadership that set up the Prostate Centre at Princess Margaret Hospital and the Fleck Tanenbaum Chair in Prostatic Diseases.
He was Chairman of Tennis Canada from 1991–95 and a Board Member 1987-98.
In April 1996 he received the Public Policy Forum Testimonial Dinner Award for "distinguished service to Canada".
He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1997.
He received The Edmund C. Bovey Award for leadership support of the arts in Canada in Oct. 2003.
In August 2004 he was inducted as a Builder into Canada’s Tennis Hall of Fame.
On September 23, 2008, a gala dinner was held at the Fairmont York Hotel in Toronto to honour Dr. Fleck and his contributions to Canadian business, government, education, sport, culture and philanthropy. Proceeds for the event went to LOFT Community Services, which provides housing and support for 4,000 homeless people in Toronto. Dr. Fleck matched the proceeds donating $100,000 each to the National Ballet of Canada, Soulpepper Theatre, and Rotman's School’s Prosperity Institute.”
He is also the 2009 recipient of the Ramon John Hnatyshyn Award for Voluntarism in the Performing Arts, which is part of the Governor General Awards. As a part of the award, the National Film Board did a 2009 short film on his unrealized desire to be a creative artist.
He was the recipient of the esteemed “Angel Award” from the International Society of Performing Arts presented in New York in January 2009 and in 2013 the Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals
He was presented the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977, the Queen’s 50th Anniversary Medal in 2002, and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
Fleck as appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1997 and promoted to Companion to the Order of Canada in 2015.