Perspectives from ISB

The Desmarais family controls Power Corp. of Canada, whose interests include stakes in giant companies on three continents. The clan is sometimes described as the closest thing Canada has to business royalty, its power amplified by close ties to presidents, prime ministers, bureaucrats and business titans all over the world. Founded by Paul Desmarais, a billionaire who died in 2013 at the age of 86, Power Corp. was passed on in 1996 to his two sons, Paul Jr. and André. Now they are readying their 34-year-old sons to take over a $48 billion corporate empire.

 Power Corp.’s assets include several publicly traded companies that together make up a roughly $48 billion empire. In the US, it owns mutual-fund manager Putnam Investments LLC through subsidiaries. In Europe, it owns stakes in companies such as cement giant Lafarge Holcim Ltd. and French utility Engie through a partnership with Belgian billionaire Albert Frère. The family has footholds in a number of Chinese companies, including a 10% stake in China Asset Management Co., and were among the first Western investors in that country. And in Canada, it controls a fleet of insurers and money managers, such as Great-West Lifeco Inc.

 Their grandfather built it. Their fathers expanded it. Now the fate of one of Canada’s biggest corporate empires is in the hands of two 34-year-old cousins who joined the company in 2014. Their parents Paul Jr., 62 and André, 59, have jointly run the company for two decades and now plan to retire at around 68, the age at which their grandfather retired. The highly successful family maintains that the key to avoiding family feuds is time bound succession planning.

 Source: Wall Street Journal

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