Born in London and raised in Quebec, Charest returned to the UK to attend the London International Film School. In 1976, she traveled to New Orleans where she met her future husband, New Yorker and Tulane graduate, Ronald A. Weinberg. While in New Orleans, Charest and Weinberg organized an event for a women's film festival, and worked at distributing foreign films to US theatres. The couple moved to New York and formed Cinar, then a budding film and television distribution company.
In 1984, Charest and Weinberg changed their focus from media distribution to production, and moved the business to Montreal, where they concentrated on children's television programming because of the favorable tax haven for development and distribution of Television shows. During this time, Charest would go on to serve as either producer or executive producer for dozens of popular animated series for children, including The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Animal Crackers, Emily of New Moon, Mona the Vampire, and The Wombles. As a production company, Cinar was also involved in the work of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, The Busy World of Richard Scarry, Madeline, Space Cases, Zoboomafoo, and Arthur. By 1999, Cinar boasted annual revenues of $150 million (CAD) and owned about $1.5 billion (CAD) of the children's television market. The company had become known for quality, non-violent children's programs, was broadcast in more than 150 countries and was one of the founding partners in the Canadian cable television channel TELETOON.
The success of Charest, Weinberg, and Cinar ended in March 2000, when an internal audit revealed that about $122 million (US) was invested into Bahamian bank accounts without the boardmembers' approval. Cinar had also paid American screenwriters for work while continuing to accept Canadian federal grants for content. The names of Canadians, most notably Micheline Charest's sister, Helene, were credited for the work, allowing Cinar to benefit from Canadian tax credits. While the province of Quebec did not file criminal charges, Cinar denied any wrongdoing, choosing instead to pay a settlement to Canadian and Quebec tax authorities of $17.8 million (CAD) and another $2.6 million (CAD) to Telefilm Canada, a Canadian federal funding agency. The value of Cinar stock plummeted, and the company was soon delisted.
In 2001, as part of a settlement agreement with the Commission des Valeurs Mobilières du Québec (Quebec Securities Commission) Charest and Weinberg agreed to pay $1 million each and were banned from serving in the capacity of directors or officers at any publicly traded Canadian company for five years. There was no admission of guilt and none of the allegations have been proven in court. In March 2004, Cinar was purchased for more than $140 million (US) by a group led by Nelvana co-founder, Michael Hirsh. Charest and Weinberg reportedly received $18 million (US) for their company shares.
In August 2009 Claude Robinson, a graphic artist and writer, won a copyright case against Cinar, Weinberg, Charest and Co. in relation to his work, Robinson Curiosité, which was plagiarized for the internationally successful animated series Robinson Sucroë.
Charest died on April 14, 2004 due to complications ensued after elective plastic surgery.
Charest and Weinberg had two children together.
- Swift, Michael. "Cinar Co-Founders Fined $1 Million Each, Banned From Company For Five Years". March 15, 2005. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- "In Depth: Micheline Charest". CBC News Online. April 14, 2004. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- "Cinar sold for $143.9 million US; new owner outlines growth strategy". CBC News Online. October 31, 2003. Retrieved 2006-09-07.
- Times Staff and Wire Reports (16 April 2004). "Micheline Charest, 51; Firm She Co-Founded Won Emmys Before Scandal Led to Losses". Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- "Micheline Charest, co-founder of Cinar, dies". CTV.ca. April 15, 2004. Retrieved 2006-09-07.