Mr. Desmarais is Executive Co-Chairman of Power Financial and Chairman and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Power Corporation. He joined Power in 1981 and assumed the position of Vice-President the following year. In 1984, he led the creation of Power Financial to consolidate Power’s major financial holdings, as well as Pargesa Holding SA, under a single corporate entity. Mr. Desmarais served as Vice-President of Power Financial from 1984 to 1986, as President and Chief Operating Officer from 1986 to 1989, as Executive Vice-Chairman from 1989 to 1990, as Executive Chairman from 1990 to 2005, as Chairman of the Executive Committee from 2006 to 2008 and as Executive Co-Chairman from 2008 until today. He also served as Vice-Chairman of Power Corporation from 1991 to 1996. He was named Chairman and Co-CEO of Power Corporation in 1996.
After Power Financial and the Frère Group of Belgium took control of Pargesa in 1990, Mr. Desmarais moved to Europe from 1991 to 1994, to develop the partnership with the Frère Group and to restructure the Pargesa group. From 1982 to 1990, he was a member of the Management Committee of Pargesa, in 1991, Executive Vice-Chairman and then Executive Chairman of the Committee; in 2003, he was appointed Co-Chief Executive Officer and in 2013 named Chairman of the Board. He has been a director of Pargesa since 1992.
He is a director of many Power group companies in North America, including Power Corporation, Great-West Lifeco, Great-West Life, Great-West Life & Annuity, London Life, Canada Life Financial, Canada Life, Putnam Investments, IGM Financial, Investors Group and Mackenzie. In Europe, he is Vice-Chairman of the Board of Groupe Bruxelles Lambert, and a director of LafargeHolcim and SGS. He was a director of Total until 2017.
Mr. Desmarais is Chairman of the Board of Governors of The International Economic Forum of the Americas (Canada), a Trustee of The Brookings Institution, Co-Chair of the Brookings International Advisory Council and a member of the Brookings Executive Committee (Washington), a member of The Business Council (United States) and of The Business Council of Canada. He is also active on a number of philanthropic advisory councils.
In 1994, he received the Insigne d’Officier de l’Ordre de la Couronne of Belgium. In 2005, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada and he received the Executive of the Year Award from the Academy of International Business. In 2009, he was named an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec and in 2012, Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in France. He holds a number of honorary doctorates.
He obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree from McGill University and a MBA from the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD), France.