Mr. Desmarais is Deputy Chairman of Power Corporation, a position he has held since 1996. He previously served as President and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation from 1996 until his retirement in February 2020. At Power Financial, he was also Executive Co-Chairman from 2015 until 2020, Co-Chairman from 2008 to 2015 and Deputy Chairman from 1996 to 2008. Prior to joining Power Corporation in 1983, he was Special Assistant to the Minister of Justice of Canada and an institutional investment counsellor at Richardson Greenshields Securities Ltd.
He is a director of many Power Corporation group companies, including Power Financial, Great-West Lifeco, Canada Life, Empower Retirement, Putnam Investments, IGM Financial, IG Wealth Management, Mackenzie and Power Sustainable Capital. He was a director and Vice-Chairman of Pargesa in Europe until November 2020, when Pargesa’s reorganization was completed. He was also a director of Bellus Health Inc. until 2009 and of CITIC Pacific Limited in Asia until 2014.
Over the years, cultural, health, and other not-for-profit organizations have benefitted from his commitment, involvement, and dedication. He has played key roles in a number of fundraising campaigns, including those of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Montreal Heart Institute, the Montreal General Hospital, Leucan, the Canadian Red Cross, the Canadian Cancer Society, Centraide of Greater Montreal and the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation. He is Chairman of the Fondation Baxter & Alma Ricard, a member of the Chairman’s International Advisory Council of the Americas Society, Honorary Chairman of the Canada China Business Council, and a member of the Trilateral Commission and several China-based organizations.
He holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Concordia University and received honorary doctorates from Concordia University, Université de Montréal and McGill University. In 2003, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and, in 2009, an Officer of the National Order of Québec.