Richest People

Canada’s Richest People: Desmarais Family

Canada’s Richest People
Desmarais Family
(Photo: Ryan Remiorz/CP)

Desmarais Family

Net Worth:
$8.38 billion
(▲24.9% from 2017)

Rich 100 rank: #7
Change in rank from 2017: ▲1
Major company holdings: Power Corp. of Canada
Location: Montreal

The Desmarais family kicked off the new year by snapping up Performance Sports Group, the company behind the Bauer and Easton brands, for $575 million with partner Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. The purchase adds to their growing influence in the sporting-goods realm, where the Desmarais hold a seat on the board of Adidas AG and hockey gear company CCM.

But the family’s legacy is most apparent through its philanthropy. In addition to some $12 million in donations to Montreal’s Sainte-Justine pediatric hospital in the past decade that bears the family name, the Desmarais clan has ponied up enough to earn namesake status on such institutions as the Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Pavillon Paul-G.-Desmarais at the Université de Montréal.

The late Paul Desmarais was one of the great empire builders of the Canadian business world. He started with a nearly bankrupt transportation company that belonged to his grandfather and expanded into other lines of work. Those assets were eventually consolidated under Power Corp., an international financial services conglomerate that includes Great-West Lifeco and IGM Financial.

Paul Sr. and Jacqueline’s two sons, Paul Jr. and André, run the operation today. The pair is looking to the future of financial services, investing $10 million in 2015 (with the option to put in $20 million) into online financial advisory startup Wealthsimple. In 2015, Power Corp. raised its dividend for the first time since 2008, and it did it again in early 2016.

Updated Thursday, November 9, 2017