André Desmarais is a Canadian businessman and philanthropist who has established himself as one of the most successful business leaders in Canada. Not only is he the former president and CEO of the highly successful Desmarais Financial Group, but he is also a generous philanthropist who has donated millions to charities across Canada.
André Desmarais was born in Montreal, Quebec on May 6, 1945. He is the youngest son of Paul Desmarais Sr, a lawyer and businessman, and his wife, Jacqueline Desmarais. He had an older brother, Paul Jr., who died in 2013.
Born in Ottawa, Ontario, he attended Lakefield College School in Ontario for two years, then Selwyn House School. Desmarais is also a graduate of Concordia University in Montreal.
He attended McGill University where he earned a BA degree in 1966, followed by an MA from Harvard University two years later.
He began his career in 1979 at the Campeau Corporation. Not a lot more is known about his early life with his family, before his career.
Desmarais is married to Jacqueline Maranger, and they have two children together, Paul and Stéphanie. The family divides their time between their home in Montreal and a residence in Palm Beach, Florida. Desmarais is also known to be an avid sportsman, he enjoys playing golf and tennis in his free time.
In 1968, André joined his father’s firm Power Corporation of Canada (now known as Power Financial) as Executive Vice President – Administration & Corporate Development. In 1983 he became President of the company’s International Division before being appointed President & CEO of the firm’s financial services arm – The Desmarais Financial Group – in 1989. Under his leadership, The Desmarais Financial Group grew substantially over the next decade until it was sold to Manulife Financial Corporation in 1999 for $1 billion CAD.
When Paul Desmarais began his career at Campeau Corporation in 1979, he was just beginning an illustrious journey that would span numerous prestigious positions. From 1980-1981, he served as special assistant to the Minister of Justice and afterward became a successful institutional investment counselor for Richardson Greenshields Ltd.
In 1983, Desmarais returned to Power Corporation of Canada where he eventually rose up the ranks until finally being appointed president and chief operating officer of Gesca ltée in 1984 followed by chairman & CEO of Power Broadcasting Inc., four years later.
Finally reaching peak success with President & COO roles within both parent companies, 1993 saw him take on additional titles including Chairman of Pacific Corp Limited alongside becoming director & member executive committee status over two more organizations under its umbrella.
For more than 50 years André Desmaris has been an integral part of the Canadian corporate landscape through both his professional successes and generous philanthropy that has benefited countless people across Canada and beyond its borders. His passion for business combined with selfless giving are inspirations for entrepreneurs everywhere seeking to make their mark on society, recognizing their responsibility to give back whenever possible.
His board memberships include:
And his professional memberships include:
In 2020, after 24 years as co-chief executive officer of Power Corporation, Desmarais retired from this role. He continues to play an active role in the governance of Power Corporation and maintains his position as deputy chairman of the board.
In addition to his business pursuits, Desmarais is a committed philanthropist. He serves on the board of the André Desmarais Power Foundation, a charitable organization that supports a wide range of causes, including education, health care, and the arts. The Desmarais also support the Desmarais Global Development Awards, which recognize and support the work of young professionals in the field of international development.
Desmarais is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Canada Council for the Arts and the National Arts Centre. He has also served on the Board of Directors of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.
His estimated net worth today stands at around $1 billion USD, making him one of Canada’s wealthiest individuals.
André Desmarais has been recognized with numerous awards throughout his career including receiving honorary degrees from both McGill and Harvard universities as well as being named an Officer of The Order of Canada for “outstanding achievement and service to the nation” by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.
Other notable achievements include:
In recognition of his contributions to business and philanthropy, Desmarais has received numerous honors and awards. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010 and was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in 2018.