Paul Desmarais

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This article is about the senior Paul Desmarais. For his son, see Paul Desmarais, Jr..
Paul Desmarais
Born April 27, 1927
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Died October 8, 2013 (aged 86)
Sagard, Quebec Canada
Nationality Canadian
Other names Paul-Guy Desmarais
Alma mater University of Ottawa
McGill University
Occupation financier, philanthropist
Known for CEO of Power Corporation of Canada
founding chairman of the Canada China Business Council
Net worth Increase$ 4.5 billion (2012)[1]
Spouse(s) Jacqueline Maranger
Children Paul Desmarais, Jr. (1954)
André Desmarais (1956)
Louise (1959)
Sophie (1962)
Parents Jean-Noel Desmarais, Lébéa Laforest
Relatives France Chrétien Desmarais
Awards Order of Canada (1978)
National Order of Quebec (1988)
The Golden Jubilee Medal (2002)
Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour (2008)

The Honourable Paul Desmarais, Sr., PC CC OQ (January 4, 1927 – October 8, 2013) was a Canadian financier in Montreal. With an estimated net worth of $US 4.5 billion (as of March 2011), Desmarais was ranked by Forbes as the fourth wealthiest person in Canada and 235th in the world.[2] He was CEO of the Power Corporation of Canada (PCC), a Canadian company active in the fields of mass media, pulp and paper and financial services.

Personal life[edit]

Desmarais was born in Sudbury, Ontario to lawyer Jean-Noel Desmarais (c. 1897-?) and Lebea Laforest (c. 1902-?).[3] The Desmarais family is originally from Quebec and descended from Paul Desmarais who moved to Canada from Saint-Sauveur, France.[4]

Desmarais' grandfather Noël Desmarais founded the town of Noëlville, Ontario.[3]

Desmarais was married to Jacqueline Maranger, also from Sudbury. They had two sons: Paul Jr. and André (who is married to former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's daughter France) and two daughters, Sophie and Louise.[5] Sophie Desmarais' ex-husband, Eric Le Moyne de Sérigny, is involved in a political financing scandal in France known as the Bettencourt case widely covered by the French media.[6] French President Nicolas Sarkozy came under fire after allegations that his presidential campaign was illegally funded by Liliane Bettencourt, L'Oréal heiress and France's wealthiest woman.[7] (In October 2013, Mr. Sarkozy was cleared of any wrongdoing in this case.) Sérigny is close to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, heads numerous companies, and a member of the board of directors of Imerys, a mining company partially owned by a subsidiary of the Power Corporation of Canada and majority owned by the Desmarais family and tycoon Albert Frère, the richest man in Belgium who was involved in the UN Oil-for-Food scandal.[8][9]

He has a large family estate in Sagard, Quebec, Canada between the villages of Saint-Siméon and Petit-Saguenay: the field Laforest. His area of over 75 square kilometers has an estimated value of more than $ 50 million (Canadian dollars). The architecture of the mansion was designed and overseen primarily by Sylvain Larouche, head of his team of 18 prominent architects.[10] Desmarais also owns homes in Palm Beach, Florida and New York. Paul Desmarais or his sons belong to associations such as the Bilderberg Group, the North American Competitiveness Council which designed the Security and Prosperity Partnership, as well as the Council on Foreign Relations.

He is a staunch opponent of the Quebec sovereignty movement. On February 2, 2009, French president Nicolas Sarkozy made comments asking Quebec sovereigntists to focus on unity and not separation from Canada, and to put their goals of sovereignty on hold during tough economic times. This angered many sovereigntists who claimed that Sarkozy was acting under the influence of Desmarais.[11]

Career[edit]

After having graduated from University of Ottawa and McGill University, Desmarais began his career at a Montreal accounting firm called Courtois, Fredette et cie, before working at a bankrupt short-line railroad and bus line, Sudbury Bus Lines, established by his grandfather. The company was sold to him for a symbolic 1 CAD, because it was almost bankrupt. He then acquired additional bus lines in the Ottawa area and Quebec City (including Quebec Autobus and Provincial Transport).[12] By 1968 the holding company which Desmarais had acquired three years earlier, Trans-Canada Corporation Fund (TCCF), owned the bus line Provincial Transport, an interest in Toronto-based Imperial Life Assurance and Gesca Ltée, (which had an interest in the Montreal paper La Presse). That year TCCF made a share-exchange offer with the Power Corporation of Canada, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, whereby Paul Desmarais became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Power Corporation of Canada[edit]

Taking advantage of the substantial investment of the Power Corporation of Canada, Desmarais took control of a large stationery, Consolidated Bathurst (built since in Stone-Consolidated, then merged to form Abitibi-Consolidated, Abitibi-Bowater today). Subsequently, CPC has diversified under the leadership of Desmarais. He bought the newspaper La Presse, which enabled him to gain experience in the field of print media in Canada. In addition, he owns about 15% of Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, a Belgian holding company, which in 2001 acquired a 25% interest in the German media company Bertelsmann, whose subsidiaries include BMG and Random House (the German company Bertelsmann bought the 25% back in July 2006). Groupe Bruxelles Lambert owns 3.7% of the French oil conglomerate Total. Then he looked for companies in Europe to extend the influence of PCC, he met the Belgian financier Albert Frère to the Board of Directors of Paribas. The two men have discovered an alter ego, applying the same financial techniques: a friendly takeover of healthy firms experiencing financial hardship, but temporary.

In 1974, Desmarais named employee Paul Martin, Jr. as president of a Power Corporation of Canada subsidiary, Canada Steamship Lines Inc. In 1981, he sold the company to Laurence Pathy and Paul Martin, Jr. The latter became Prime Minister of Canada in December 2003.

He was Canada’s 4th richest man in 2007 and his severe drop in wealth in 2008 reflected a 44 percent plunge of the Power Corporation of Canada's shares, when the company's profits fell 41 percent – its lowest share price since 2002.[13]

PCC is working with the Carlyle Group and the half-brother of Nicolas Sarkozy.

Criticism[edit]

The Desmarais family enjoys close connections to politicians worldwide. Critics charge that the family’s political connections provide it with unfair advantages in business.[14] Desmarais' relative obscurity outside of Canada has been used to hide his family's countless political connections and influence in business as well as politics.[15] Over the years political observers have pointed out the enormous and unusually powerful influence Desmarais has over Canadian federal politics. Desmarais, it has been observed by Canadian reporters, has a direct pipeline into every prime minister's office. A number of prime ministers and other influential Canadian elected officials are, or have been, financially dependent on Desmarais, including Jean Chrétien, who sat on the board of the Power Corporation of Canada.[16]

Links in France[edit]

Friendship with Nicolas Sarkozy[edit]

According to Le Figaro, Paul Desmarais Sr. is a close associate of ex-president of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy. Paul Desmarais Sr. and Sarkozy were together at the party at Fouquet's to celebrate the election of the new president on May 6, 2007.[17] In 2004, Nicolas Sarkozy was a guest at his estate in Sagard, in Charlevoix, a good distance from the Saint Lawrence. «Quand tu entres dans la propriété, on t'ouvre un premier portail. Ensuite, tu dois faire des kilomètres et des kilomètres avant d'arriver au château...» ("When you enter the property, they open the first gate. Then you have to go kilometers and kilometers before arriving at the chateau...") Nicolas Sarkozy told about the fortitude of his friend Desmarais.[18]

Death[edit]

The Canadian, Québec and Montréal flags half-masted in honour of Mr. Desmarais, at the La Presse building in Montréal.

Desmarais died at his estate at Domaine Laforest at Sagard in the Charlevoix at age 86.[19][20]

Desmarais' funeral was a private and a public memorial held on December 3, 2013.[20]

Medals[edit]

Honours[edit]

Ribbon bars of Paul Desmarais
Academic offices
Preceded by
G. Alain Frecker
Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland
1979-1988
Succeeded by
His Honour the Hon. John Crosbie

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The World's Billionaires 2013". Forbes. March 2013. 
  2. ^ "The World's Billionaires List". Forbes. March 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Jean Yves Pelletier. "Paul Desmarais". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  4. ^ "Genealogy Paul Desmarais". Nosorigines.qc.ca. 2007-01-14. Retrieved 2014-07-18. 
  5. ^ André et Paul Jr deviennent Officiers, Québec Métro, June 20, 2009.
  6. ^ La presse française s'intéresse aux Desmarais, Canoe.ca, August 25, 2010.
  7. ^ Sarkozy caught up in Liliane Bettencourt scandal, The Guardian, July 9, 2010.
  8. ^ Total faces corruption investigation, New Statesman, April 7, 2010.
  9. ^ Frere and Desmarais Families of Belgium and Canada—The Real Power Behind Imerys, Web Shells.
  10. ^ Party prestigieux chez Desmarais, Canoë, August 19, 2006.
  11. ^ Authier, Philip; O'Neil, Peter (2009-02-03). "Sarkozy's sovereignty comments spark anger in Quebec". The National Post. Canwest News Service. Archived from the original on 2010-01-25. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  12. ^ The Name Is ‘Power’ and It Fits, The New York Times, January 26, 2007.
  13. ^ Desmarais advances on Buffett zone, The Australian, August 3, 2009.
  14. ^ The Name Is ‘Power’ and It Fits, The New York Times, January 26, 2007.
  15. ^ Desmarais advances on Buffett zone, The Australian, August 3, 2009.
  16. ^ Globe and Mail hyperventilating on Harper picture misses the real news, Canada Free Press, June 25, 2010.
  17. ^ « Vacances du président : la piste canadienne » Le Figaro.
  18. ^ Un Sarkozy chez Carlyle, l'autre décore Albert Frère : y a-t-il un lien ?, Trends, March 6, 2008.
  19. ^ "Power Corporation of Canada Announces the Death of The Honourable Paul Desmarais, P.C., C.C., O.Q.". Retrieved October 9, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b CBC News http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/paul-desmarais-dies-the-man-who-was-power-corp-dead-at-86-1.1931144 |url= missing title (help). 

External links[edit]