On April 18, 1925, Power Corporation of Canada came into being. Its story since that day has been a story of steady, sometimes spectacular growth. It has been a story of remarkable leadership and extraordinary people. It has also been a story intricately bound with the economic and social history of Canada in the twentieth century. Through good times and bad, as an important and respected contributor to the development of the country, Power Corporation has prospered and grown into the multibillion-dollar holding company that today spans the world.
Power’s roots go back to the early days of electrification, when a group of prominent Montréal financiers foresaw the opportunities in building and providing hydro power for homes and industries across the country and around the world.
Early in the 1960s, governments in Canada’s provinces, including the province of Québec, pushed to nationalize the hydroelectric industry as an essential public service. Power had to reinvest the cash it had received from the liquidation of much of its portfolio wisely, prudently, and strategically.
By 1968, control of Power had passed to entrepreneur Paul Desmarais and a new leadership team which focused the Corporation on achieving record prosperity. Its investments were concentrated into a very few, large, diversified, long-term holdings, whose growth was nurtured through the 1970s and 1980s by effective managers with the full involvement and financial backing of the controlling shareholder. From that financially strong and rationally restructured base, and coincident with the advent of liberalized trade and the growth of the global economy in the 1990s, Power Corporation set out on a new path of expansion.
The results speak for themselves: from the late 1990s up to the second decade of the twenty-first century, Power, led by Paul Desmarais’ two sons Paul, Jr. and André since 1996, has played a leading role in the consolidation of Canada’s financial services industry while simultaneously developing a portfolio of diversified international holdings.
Driven by the goal of creating sustainable shareholder value, and often in the face of considerable odds, Power Corporation’s history is a quintessentially Canadian business success story. Through strategic focus and a commitment to sound investment principles, Power’s leadership over the years has built a remarkably resilient company. Theirs is a compelling narrative that serves as a case study on how sustainable companies are built, prosper and lead, both at home and abroad.