Paul Desmarais Jr.

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Paul Desmarais Jr. is one of Canada’s most influential business people. He is currently Chairperson and co-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation of Canada alongside his brother Andre Desmarais, who is also president of the company. The brothers took over the company from their father Paul Desmarais Sr. who transformed the corporation from a utility company in 1968 into a $16 billion international management and holding company with interests in North America, Europe and China.[1] In 2007 the brothers earned Cdn$933,000 each in salary and Cdn$1.2 million each in bonus. [2]

Paul Desmarais Jr. is a key member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), a lobby group that co-governs the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) of North America. He sits on the Executive Committee of the CCCE as well as the Board of Directors and the Entrepeneurs' Circle. Within the Power Corporation of Canada organisation he is also the co-Chair of Power Financial Corporation. [3][4] Paul Desmarais Jr. has been a participant at meetings of the highly secretive Bilderberg Group. He is of particular interest to water researchers because he sits on the Board of GDF-Suez.[5]

The history leading to his appointment on the board of GDF-Suez is most interesting and directly related to his father’s business dealings and political connections. His father, Desmarais, Sr., is the former CEO of Power Corporation of Canada. A report in one of Canada’s leading newspapers, The Globe and Mail, documents the history of Jr.'s appointment. It begins with the events leading up to France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy awarding Paul Desmarais, Sr., the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour – France’s highest distinction, an award given to few foreigners. Sarkozy once said of Desmarais Sr., “If I am President of the Republic, I owe it in part to the advice, friendship and loyalty of Paul Desmarais.”[6]

An excerpt from the Globe article reads:

For the French...Mr. Desmarais has changed their world by pressing Mr. Sarkozy toward the top…
Though the President’s approval ratings have fallen like a failed soufflé, Mr. Desmarais remains loyal to the world leader (another one) he has mentored since giving Mr. Sarkozy a lift on his private jet in 1995. Mr. Sarkozy has spoken of the “long walks in the forest” at Sagard (Desmarais Sr.'s private residence) during which Mr. Desmarais pushed him to pursue his goal.
“When he came to Quebec, I encouraged him,” Mr. Desmarais tells Le Point. “France needs him…If France continues with social programs that is unable to afford, it’s on the wrong track. Sarkozy has arrived at the height of a [global] financial crisis. But he has a vision for France. He’s the right man for the situation.” Mr. Desmarais’ influence over Mr. Sarkozy has been detected in the latter’s move to redefine Canada-France relations by getting cosier with Ottawa and distancing la mere patrie from its officially neutral (but unofficially amenable) stance toward Quebec independence.
Of course, Mr. Desmarais’ sway with Mr. Sarkozy goes beyond diplomacy. One of the President’s first moves after taking office was to relaunch the long-stalled merger between state-owned GAZ de France and the electric and gas utility Suez SA to create a massive global power player with €75 billion (CDN $121 billion) in sales.
Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, the European affiliate jointly controlled by Mr. Desmarais’ Power Financial Corp. and Mr. Frere’s Belgian holding company, is the largest shareholder in Suez with 9.5 per cent. It will emerge as the biggest shareholder after the French state in the combined GDF-Suez once the merger closes July 22 (2008).
Paul Desmarais Jr., Power’s 54-year-old chairman and co-Chief Executive Officer, will oversee the family’s interests as a member of the GDF-Suez board. [7]

The Power Corporation of Canada is well-known to be active in Canadian politics having close relations with many political elites. In fact, Paul Martin, the 21st Prime Minister of Canada once sat on the board of directors at the corporation as did the 20th Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Furthermore, Paul Martin became an executive at the Power Corporation of Canada when he became Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the companies shipping business, Canada Steamship Lines (CSL).[8] Paul Martin eventually bought CSL and eventually transferred the ownership to his sons. France Chretien Desmarais, daughter of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, married Andre Desmarais, current President and co-CEO of the Power Corporation of Canada.

Current Directorships and Offices Held

Member of the international board, of the board of directors and the audit committee of INSEAD.


  1. TMX Money, Lists & Rankings: The Investor 500, 2007], accessed 12 December 2008.
  2. TMX Money, Lists & Rankings: The Investor 500, 2007], accessed 12 December 2008.
  3. Power Corporation of Canada, Profile, accessed 12 December 2008.
  4. Power Corporation of Canada, Board of Directors, accessed 12 December 2008.
  5. GDF-Suez, Board Biographies, accessed 12 December 2008.
  6. Knorad Yaka buski, Paul Desmarais: A kingmaker expounds, accessed 12 December 2008.
  7. Knorad Yaka buski, Paul Desmarais: A kingmaker expounds. Thursday, July 3 2008., accessed 12 December 2008.
  8. BBC News, Profile: Paul Martin, accessed 12 December 2008.
  9. GDF Suez, Board Biographies, accessed 12 December 2008.