Paul G. Desmarais (1927-2013)

Key Dates

1927
Born on January 4, in Sudbury, Ontario, son of the late Jean-Noël Desmarais, Q.C. and Lébéa Laforest.
1949
Obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Ottawa, following which he returned to Sudbury, Ontario to manage his father’s bus company, Sudbury Bus Lines.
1951
Purchased control of Sudbury Coppercliff Street Railway.
1953
Married Jacqueline Maranger on September 8; has two sons, Paul and André, and two daughters, Louise and Sophie.
1959 to 1968
Developed business holdings in transportation, life insurance and other diversified interests.
1968
Acquired control of Power Corporation of Canada, and became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
1969
Bought a majority position in The Great-West Life Assurance Company.
1970
Increased Power Corporation’s direct stake in Investors Group to over 50 per cent.
1977 to 1978
Substantially increased Power Corporation’s holdings in Investors Group and Great-West Life.
1978
Founded Canada China Business Council.
1996
Passed the reins of management of Power Corporation to his sons, Paul Jr. and André. Continued as a Director and Chairman of the Executive Committee of Power Corporation.
2013
Died peacefully on October 8, at the age of 86, surrounded by his loved ones at Domaine Laforest in the Charlevoix region, province of Québec, Canada.

 

Decorations

  • Member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada
  • Companion of the Order of Canada
  • Officer of the National Order of Québec
  • Grand’Croix de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (France)
  • Commandeur de l’Ordre de Léopold II (Belgium)

 

Honorary Degrees

  • LL.D., University of Moncton, Moncton, New Brunswick
  • LL.D., Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario
  • D.Adm., University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario
  • LL.D., St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova-Scotia
  • LL.D., Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario
  • LL.D., McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario
  • Doctorate Honoris Causa, University of Montréal, Montréal, Québec
  • LL.D., Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland
  • LL.D., Concordia University, Montréal, Québec
  • LL.D., McGill University, Montréal, Québec
  • D.Adm., Laval University, Québec city, Québec
  • LL.D., University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario
  • LL.D., University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Biographical Notes

The Honourable Paul Desmarais, P.C., C.C., O.Q.

1927–2013

DESMARAIS, PAUL GUY— Passed away peacefully at Domaine Laforest, Sagard, in the region of Charlevoix, Quebec, on October 8, 2013, at the age of 86 after a full and happy life of family, friends, business, philanthropy, and service to Canada.

Beloved husband of 60 years to Jacqueline; dearest father to Paul Jr. (Hélène), André (France), Louise, and Sophie (Daniel); devoted grandfather to Paul III (Mary Dailey), Olivier (Adriana), Maximilien, Alexandre (Madeleine), Nicolas (Myriam), Philippe (Amanda), Sébastien, Jacqueline-Ariadne (Hadrien), Charles-Édouard and Chloé and great-grandfather of Paul Gordon and Henry Tecumseh. Survived by his brothers and sisters Louis (Lucille), Yolande, Jeannine (the late Antonin Proulx), Françoise (Remy Le Poittevin), and Robert (Jeanne). Predeceased by the late Dr. Jean-Noël (Colette) and the late Pierre (Guylaine).

Born in Sudbury, Ontario, on January 4, 1927, to Jean-Noël and Lébéa Desmarais, Paul studied commerce at the University of Ottawa and law at the Osgoode Hall until taking on the challenge of rescuing his family’s failing bus company. A visionary entrepreneur, he merged it into Quebec Autobus, Provincial Transport and Trans-Canada Corporation Fund. In 1968, he acquired control of Power Corporation of Canada, a public company organized in 1925 to hold electric power facilities which had been nationalized by the 1960’s. Over the following decades Paul oversaw its transformation into a financial, industrial and communications company with major interests in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Among its principal investments through its subsidiary, Power Financial Corporation, are Great-West Life, London Life, Canada Life and Putnam Investments, as well as Investors Group and Mackenzie Financial Corporation. Power also owns La Presse and several other leading French-language newspapers and has diversified holdings in Europe and China.

In 1996, he passed the reins of management of Power Corporation to his sons. Paul Jr. became Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer and André became Deputy Chairman, President and Co-Chief Executive Officer. Paul continued to serve as a Director and Chairman of the Executive Committee. He remained controlling shareholder until his passing.

As significant as his business achievements were, Paul possessed many outstanding qualities which were an even fuller measure of the man. First and foremost was his deep, joyful love for his family. He adored Jackie for her spirit, style and huge heart. She was his best friend and most trusted partner. Of all his accomplishments he was proudest of each of his children and what they in turn have accomplished as fine members of society.

Those fortunate enough to have worked with him were inspired by his strategic acumen, his personal integrity and his mentorship. Those who knew him as a friend will never forget his extraordinary zest for life, his irrepressible sense of fun, and his unpretentious nature. Prime ministers, presidents, premiers and mayors sought his counsel, which was invariably practical as well as wise. People from all parts of the world and all walks of life enjoyed his legendary hospitality and infectious charm.

Paul loved history and politics. He loved arts, architecture and music. Together with Jackie, he was renowned for his generosity to a host of educational, cultural and community organizations, particularly those relating to the conditions of the homeless. A great believer in the value of education, he served as Chancellor of Memorial University, received honorary degrees from a dozen universities, and was awarded the University of Ottawa’s Distinguished Canadian Leadership Award. In addition to serving on numerous corporate and non-corporate boards, he co-founded the Business Council on National Issues, which became the Canadian Council of chief Executives, and the Canada China Business Council.

Always a passionate defender of national unity and proud of his French Canadian heritage, Paul was appointed a member of the Privy Council of Canada, Companion of the Order of Canada, and Officer of the Ordre national du Québec, as well as a recipient of France’s Grand Croix of the Légion d’honneur and Commandeur de l’Ordre de Léopold II of Belgium. He saw his success in business at home and around the world as a contribution to the development of Canada as a nation and an example to young Canadians of both official languages.

Paul was a proud Canadian who was never afraid to take on the entire world. He was a man of elegance and sophistication who never lost his down-to-earth simplicity or love of the Canadian wilderness. He will be sorely missed by his grieving wife, his loving family, his business associates, and his many friends, but forever in their hearts and memories.

The Desmarais family would like to extend particular thanks to Dr. Guy Roberge, Dr. Jean-Luc Dupuis,
Dr. Patrick Cossette and Dr. Jean Rouleau, to nurses Martine Richer and Tassadit Manceur and to Mr. Yves Boulanger.

In lieu of flowers, donations will be gratefully received in Paul’s memory by the CHUM Foundation, the Montreal Heart Institute, the Fondation du Centre Hospitalier St-Joseph De La Malbaie, the University of Ottawa and charities of your choice preferably dedicated to the homeless.

Obituary

To our Shareholders


The Honourable Paul Desmarais, P.C., C.C., O.Q.

1927–2013
 

On October 8th, 2013, we at Power Corporation and Power Financial Corporation, lost a devoted father, leader, colleague and friend. We were all most privileged to have known and worked with this remarkable man who we respected and loved so dearly.

Our father acquired control of Power in 1968, and led the Corporation as its Chairman and Chief Executive Officer until 1996. At that time, he passed the reins of management to us, and continued to serve as a Director and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board. He remained controlling shareholder until his death. His contribution to the Corporation over a span of almost fifty years was as invaluable as it is enduring.

His death is a tremendous loss for us all, however his legacy will continue through the strong core values he introduced at Power. He was the architect of a culture that fosters responsible ownership and management, respects individuals, supports our communities, believes strongly that long-term success is the product of hard work, perseverance and integrity. We will continue to build on the solid foundation and values that have formed the cornerstone of our business for many decades. We wish to confirm that, following the death of our father, control of Power Corporation remains within our immediate family.

We wanted all of the Corporations’ shareholders who he served with such dedication to know how much he appreciated your support for so many years. The attached obituary seeks to capture the essence of the extraordinary man that he was.

 

PAUL DESMARAIS, Jr, O.C., O.Q.
Chairman and
Co-Chief Executive Officer
Power Corporation of Canada

Co-Chairman of the Board
Power Financial Corporation

 

ANDRÉ DESMARAIS, O.C., O.Q.
Deputy Chairman, President and
Co-Chief Executive Officer
Power Corporation of Canada

Co-Chairman of the Board
Power Financial Corporation

Letter to shareholders
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