Mr. Desmarais is Chairman of Power Corporation, a position he has held since 1996. He previously served as Co-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation from 1996 until his retirement in February 2020. He was also Executive Co-Chairman of Power Financial until 2020.
He joined Power in 1981 and assumed the position of Vice-President the following year. In 1984, he led the creation of Power Financial to consolidate Power’s major financial holdings, as well as Pargesa Holding SA, under a single corporate entity. Mr. Desmarais served as Vice-President of Power Financial from 1984 to 1986, as President and Chief Operating Officer from 1986 to 1989, as Executive Vice-Chairman from 1989 to 1990, as Executive Chairman from 1990 to 2005 and as Chairman of the Executive Committee from 2006 to 2008. He also served as Vice-Chairman of Power Corporation from 1991 to 1996.
After Power Financial and the Frère Group of Belgium took control of Pargesa in 1990, Mr. Desmarais moved to Europe from 1991 to 1994, to develop the partnership with the Frère Group and to restructure the Pargesa group. From 1982 to 1990, he was a member of the Management Committee of Pargesa, in 1991, Executive Vice-Chairman and then Executive Chairman of the Committee; from 2003 to 2019, he was Co-Chief Executive Officer and he was named Chairman of the Board in 2013. He has been a director of Pargesa since 1992.
He also serves as Chairman of Power Financial and is a director of many Power Corporation group companies in North America, including Great-West Lifeco, Canada Life, Empower Retirement, Putnam Investments, IGM Financial, IG Wealth Management and Mackenzie. In Europe, he is Chairman of the Board of Groupe Bruxelles Lambert and a director of SGS. He was a director of LafargeHolcim until 2020 and of Total until 2017.
Mr. Desmarais is Chairman of the Board of Governors of The International Economic Forum of the Americas (Canada), a Trustee of The Brookings Institution, Co-Chair of the Brookings International Advisory Council and a member of the Brookings Executive Committee (Washington), a member of the Global Board of Advisors of the Council on Foreign Relations (United States), a member of the Global Advisory Council of Harvard (United States), a member of The Business Council (United States) and of The Business Council of Canada. He is also active on a number of philanthropic advisory councils.
In 1994, he received the Insigne d’Officier de l’Ordre de la Couronne of Belgium. In 2005, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada and he received the Executive of the Year Award from the Academy of International Business. In 2009, he was named an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec and in 2012, Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in France. He holds a number of honorary doctorates.
He obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University and an MBA from the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD), France.