Bought his father's one-route Ontario bus company for a dollar in 1951; built it into Power Corp., a $33 billion (sales) financial services and communications giant. Company owns Montreal daily, La Presse, as well as 6 other newspapers in Quebec and Ontario. Acquired U.S. money manager Putnam Investments in 2007. Power Financial includes life insurer Great-West Lifeco and Investors Group, Canada's largest mutual fund company. Key shareholder of Chinese conglomerate Citic Pacific, French oil giant Total. Sons Paul Jr. and Andre groomed to take over some day. Collects Canadian art and hunts birds at his private estate in Quebec. Family is friends with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Mr. Desmarais turned over control of Power Corporation to his sons, André and Paul Jr., in 1996. He remained chairman of the executive committee and its controlling shareholder until his death. He is survived by his wife, the former Jacqueline Maranger; his sons; his daughters, Louise and Sophie; 10 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.