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Paul Desmarais, Sr., PC, CC (born January 4, 1927) is a Canadianmarker financier in Montrealmarker and one of the ten richest persons in Canada. He counts among his friends Brian Mulroney, former prime minister of Canada; Jean Chrétien, former prime minister of Canada; the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, former prime minister of Canada; George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, former Presidents of United States of America; and current President of France Nicolas Sarkozy.

Early life and career

Desmarais was born in Sudburymarker, Ontariomarker. After having graduated from University of Ottawamarker and McGill Universitymarker, Desmarais began his career at a Montreal accounting firm called Courtois, Fredette et cie, before returning to Sudbury to take the helm of his family's bus service, Sudbury Bus Lines, in 1951. He then acquired additional bus lines in the Ottawamarker area and Quebec Citymarker (including Quebec Autobus and Provincial Transport). 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 Power Corporation of Canada, headquartered in Montreal, Quebecmarker, whereby Paul Desmarais became Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Power Corp.

Desmarais' Power Corporation of Canada owns about 15% of Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, a Belgian holding company, which in 2001 acquired a 25% interest in the Germanmarker media company Bertelsmannmarker, 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. Desmarais has been accused of having close business ties with Saddam Hussein, which Desmarais has denied. Total made a deal with Hussein giving it exploration rights to 25% of Iraq's oil reserves.

In 1974, Desmarais named employee Paul Martin, Jr. as president of a Power Corporation 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 on December 12, 2003.

In 1978 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 1986.

Desmarais is a staunch opponent of the Quebec sovereignty movement. On Feb.2 2009, French president Nicolas Sarkozy made comments asking Quebec sovereigntists to focus on unity and not separation from Canadamarker, and to put their goals of sovereignty on hold during tough economic times. This angered many sovereigntists who claimed that Sarkozy was simply saying what his good friend Paul Desmarais had instructed him to.

Paul Desmarais sits on the advisory board of the Carlyle Group.

Desmarais has 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.

As a sign of his connection to the University of Ottawamarker, a 12-storey building was named in his honour due to his contribution of $15 million to the university..

References

  1. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601170&sid=am2tdSNHYLK4
  2. http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=1249285
  3. Construction of the New Desmarais Building


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