The Desmarais inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame

(Toronto) Nearly nine years after the death of the patriarch, Paul Desmarais, and 26 years after his two sons, André and Paul, jr, took over the reins of Power Corporation, the three men were inducted Thursday evening into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Toronto.

Posted May 13

This pantheon, established in 1979 by the Canadian organization Junior Achievement, celebrated some 200 personalities from the business world considered to be inspirations for young people. In addition to the three members of the Desmarais family, two other personalities were inducted this year, Maureen Kempston Darkes, vice-president of the General Motors group, and Hassan Khosrowshahi, founder of Future Shop.

Brothers in arms

In a ceremony held exclusively in English, Paul Desmarais, jr, and André Desmarais began their remarks with thanks in French. They first wanted to pay a vibrant tribute to their father, who took over the family bus business in 1951 before taking control of Power Corporation in 1968, making it one of the largest Canadian conglomerates, which was, among other things, the owner of The Press until 2018. The first of the two brothers to take the stage, Paul, jr, believes that “his real passion, I think, in the end, was his family”. “He always allowed me to do what I loved to do, and I couldn’t have done it without him,” he continued. At the same time, he saluted his mother, Jacqueline, “always loving and a permanent Eveready pile”. “I couldn’t have asked for better parents. »

He recalled that his father had, in an unusual gesture in 1996, given the title of co-chief executive to his sons.

“My father was brilliant enough to give us each our zones and our areas,” said the man who laid the foundations of Power Corporation in 1986 as a financial services conglomerate. “It’s great, because it gave us oxygen, the opportunity to each develop our own world, our own leadership with our own team. »

He made a point of thanking the leading collaborators, such as Robert Gratton, “the phenomenon of his generation”, and Michel Plessis-Bélair, who contributed to building the company. “Without these individuals, I would not have been blessed with a career that I have enjoyed so much. »

“This honor does not belong only to the Desmarais, but to the people who have worked with us over the decades,” added André Desmarais. He confessed to fearing that his father, after appointing the brothers co-chiefs, would continue to run the business. A few important acquisitions later, he was reassured and wanted to thank his brother. “He was a wonderful partner. And yet, our opinions differed on just about everything…”

China and financial services

Paul, Jr., barely contained his tears as he returned the compliment to his brother. “Together we made the decision to pivot the business and go deep into financial services. Through all the transactions, we strengthened each other’s courage and, by God, we needed it. It felt good to have someone near you with unconditional support. And he was my brother. »

Earlier in interview with The Press, André Desmarais acknowledged that tributes like the one on Thursday evening, “these are always things that bother us, but this time, we decided to do it, since they decided to honor my father at the same time . It’s pretty special to have my dad, brother and I inducted at the same time. It’s amazing “.

While Power Corporation has long been a highly diversified conglomerate, he believes this induction rewards successes as a financial services group. “When we sold Consolidated Bathurst and Montreal Trust [en 1989], it gave us a lot of cash. It allowed us to make an offer for London Life and, after that, we made offers for other companies. »

Investments in China, in which Power Corporation was an early Canadian player, and in Europe were “probably” considered for this induction.

“I would say it’s a bit of everything, in the end…”

The Desmarais in a nutshell

1652765641 658 The Desmarais inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame

PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Paul Desmarais, in 2007

Paul Desmarais

Born January 4, 1927 in Sudbury, Ontario

In 1951 took over the family business of bus transport

Married Jacqueline Maranger in 1953, with whom he had four children, Paul, André, Louise and Sophie

In 1963, acquired the Imperial Life insurance company, then, in 1965, the TransCanada Corporation Fund; he then becomes the owner of The Press

Purchased in 1968, through an exchange of shares, Power Corporation, a public utility company founded in Montreal in 1925; he became Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer in 1970

Ceded the reins of Power Corporation to his sons Paul and André in 1996

Died October 8, 2013

1652765642 911 The Desmarais inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame

PHOTO ANDRÉ PICHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

André Desmarais, in 2018

Andre Desmarais

Born October 26, 1956 in Ottawa, Ontario

Began his career in 1979 at Campeau Corporation, a real estate company founded by Robert Campeau

Married in 1981 to France Chrétien, daughter of the then Minister of Justice, Jean Chrétien

Became Vice President at Power Corporation in 1983

Is named president and chief operating officer of the media subsidiary Gesca ltée in 1984

In 1996 became President and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation

Announcement of his retirement as co-CEO in 2020

Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors of Power Corporation

1652765642 507 The Desmarais inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame

PHOTO ANDRÉ PICHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Paul Desmarais, Jr.

Paul Desmarais, Jr.

Born July 3, 1954 in Sudbury, Ontario

Earned a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University and a Masters of Administration from the European Institute of Business Administration in Fontainebleau, France

In the 1970s, worked at SG Warburg, in London, and at Standard Brands, in New York

Joined Power Corporation in 1981

Founded Power Financial and became President and Chief Operating Officer in 1986

Became Chairman of the Board and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation in 1996

Announces his retirement as Co-Chief Executive Officer in February 2020

Chairman of the Board of Directors of Power Corporation

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The Desmarais inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame


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