Mr. Desmarais has been Chairman of Power Corporation since 1996. He also served as Co-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation from 1996 until his retirement in February 2020, previously having assumed various positions since he joined Power Corporation in 1981. He is Chairman of Power Financial and also served as Executive Co-Chairman from 2015 to March 2020, Co-Chairman from 2008 to 2015 and Executive Chairman from 1990 to 2005.
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, and, from 2003 to 2019, he was Co-Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Desmarais was Chairman of the Board of Pargesa from 2013 until November 2020, when Pargesa’s reorganization was completed.
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, of Total until 2017, of GDF Suez from 2001 to 2014, and of Imerys S.A. from 1998 to 2008.
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.