Since our inaugural Top 1000 issue in 1984, Report on Business magazine has been reporting on the highs and lows in business, from around the world. Some of the juiciest stories, however, were the ones we never reported. Read all 12 articles here.
Most CEOs aren’t photogenic. They are also chronically time-pressed, and few of them can distinguish a good cover photograph from a bad one. Getting them to sit for anything other than a static pose is every photographer’s assignment from hell.
In the history of the magazine, however, one cover shoot stands out for its sheer difficulty. In fact, the September, 2003, cover featuring power couple Pierre Karl Péladeau and Julie Snyder almost didn’t happen. The incident revealed plenty about its principal subject.
In 2003, long before he embarked on a political career, Péladeau was the gruff and intimidating CEO of Quebecor, the media conglomerate founded by his late father, Pierre, but which the son had transformed into a multiplatform juggernaut. His purchase of cable giant Vidéotron and broadcaster TVA for $5.4-billion, backed by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, was a convergence-era coup. And in Snyder, then Quebec’s hottest TV host and producer, Péladeau found the perfect partner to make a splash with the story. While Péladeau had traditionally been an unco-operative media subject, that had been before he found his “soulmate” in Snyder. To illustrate my feature on the couple’s collaboration on a mega hit reality show called Star Académie, the image-savvy Snyder asked Péladeau to pose Beatles-style for a cover shot playing on the program’s pop music theme.
Snyder drafted Céline Dion’s stylist to dress her and her beau, and insisted on choosing the photographer–top Quebec fashion shooter Jean-Claude Lussier. On a suffocatingly humid Saturday, in an airless converted loft in the heart of Montreal, Snyder spent hours finessing her own look, and especially Péladeau’s–down to his groovy Beatles bob and expensive ‘60s-era skinny suit. When the shoot began, an unexpected side of Péladeau emerged. No one would have taken him for a malleable male model. But in Snyder’s hands, he was putty.
At the end of the day, Péladeau even approved the Polaroid proofs–this was still the days before digital photography. Everyone went home happy. Or so I thought.
But some time before Monday morning, Péladeau–or one of his minions, it was never clear–went to the Montreal photo lab where the film was being developed and confiscated it. Had the control freak suddenly gotten cold feet, fearing the cover would expose his vulnerable side and shatter the hard-ass image he’d long cultivated? Only he knows. This was only days before the magazine was to go to print. It took the delicate diplomacy of Péladeau’s handler, Luc Lavoie, to persuade his boss to surrender the film. The incident spoke volumes about his sense of entitlement and his tendency to play by his own rules.
Unsurprisingly, the cover was a hit in Quebec. It even made the evening news on TVA rival Radio-Canada, since it marked the first time the celebrity couple had offered a glimpse into their private life. Péladeau and Snyder seemed thrilled, too, and called me to rave about the classy black-and-white shot.
For Péladeau, ceding control was good training for a future politician.
Konrad Yakabuski was a senior writer at Report on Business magazine and Quebec correspondent for The Globe and Mail, the paper for which he now writes an op-ed column. He’s still writing about Péladeau.