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Meet 2022′s Inductees to the Canadian Business Hall of Fame

The Canadian Business Hall of Fame tribute, an annual event since 1979, celebrates the lifetime achievements of five Canadians who have served as outstanding leaders in business, innovation and philanthropy.

Each year, business leaders are nominated by their peers and are chosen by an independent selection committee representing Canada’s foremost private sector, academic and media institutions.

“We thank Korn Ferry, our official Selection Partner, for their diligent review of nominations, and my selection committee colleagues for their thoughtful engagement through the process,” says Janice Fukakusa, chancellor of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

The honourees, who made their mark in diverse business sectors, have not only contributed to the success and competitiveness of Canada in a global marketplace but are also philanthropists engaged in social and civic change and serve as mentors and role models for Junior Achievement (JA) youth who represent Canada’s future leaders.

The individuals, who will be inducted as Companions of the Order of the Business Hall of Fame, are Maureen Kempston Darkes, the late Paul Guy Desmarais, Paul Desmarais, Jr., André Desmarais and Hassan Khosrowshahi.

As the signature national fundraising initiative of JA Canada, the Induction Ceremony and Celebration supports the non-profit organization’s mission to provide experiential, business-focused educational programs.

This evening’s event, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, will include tributes, storytelling and accolades that recognize the 2022 inductees.


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Maureen Kempston Darkes

Maureen Kempton Darkes’ illustrious career at General Motors of Canada raised the bar of achievement for women in the business world. The first woman to achieve the role of president and general manager, she was also group vice-president of GM’s operations in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East – a huge global portfolio covering three continents, 84 countries and four languages. In 2003, she was ranked by Fortune magazine as the sixth most powerful woman in international business. Now retired, the Toronto-born powerhouse has served on the boards of Canadian National Railway and Irving Oil, among many others, and is currently on the board of Brookfield Asset Management.

What unique business challenges did you face as a woman?

The auto industry is an exciting business – it affects how we live and it has a major impact on the economy. I joined the legal team at General Motors in 1975; the auto industry was dominated by men and indeed, there weren’t many women in the C-suite in any industry. I had to have the courage to step out of my comfort zone. I had to establish my presence and that I was there to lead and make a positive impact.

What made you want to be an executive in the auto industry?

Since women were buying 50 per cent of the cars, influencing 70 per cent of purchase decisions and were graduating from university in record numbers, it became obvious we had a leadership role to play in every facet of the industry. Commercial operations, public policy, engineering, you name it – women were fundamentally important to the industry and yet we were not properly represented.

What’s your advice for the next generation of business leaders?

Be open to all the possibilities and stay optimistic. Be persistent and resilient. What differentiates great leaders and institutions is the ability to persevere and overcome what seems to be impossible. Be confident in yourself and your abilities. You can either step forward into growth or step backward into safety and security.


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Paul Guy Desmarais (1927-2013)

The late Paul Guy Desmarais was one of Canada’s most exceptional entrepreneurs. His first business, established in 1949, in his hometown of Sudbury, Ont., was a small bus company, Sudbury Bus Lines. He went on to develop multiple business holdings in transportation, life insurance, media and other diversified interests.

Eventually, he acquired control of Montreal-based financial giant Power Corporation of Canada (PCC) in 1968, building it into one of Canada’s leading conglomerates.

In 1969, Desmarais bought a majority position in Great-West Life Assurance Company. He substantially increased PCC’s holdings in Investors Group and Great-West Life, assets that proved to be a solid foundation for the company’s eventual pivot away from its major industrial holdings and into financial services.

Desmarais was renowned for his business acumen and mentorship, as well as his commitment and generosity to educational, cultural and community organizations. He was a passionate defender of national unity and proud of his French-Canadian heritage.

In 1996, he handed the reins of PCC to his sons, Paul and André.

While addressing PCC’s Annual General Meeting of Shareholders in May 1996, he said: “If I have one simple message to give all young Canadians, regardless of their background or the language they speak, it would be, above all, to believe in themselves and not let themselves be isolated in any particular corner. They should move on and up to those seemingly impossible heights attainable to those who dare to try.”

Paul Guy Desmarais passed away in 2013.


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Paul Desmarais, Jr.

Paul Desmarais, Jr. led the creation of Power Financial and served as president and executive chairman for 18 years, changing the landscape of financial services in Canada by consolidating major life insurance and mutual fund companies. He is currently chairman of Power Corporation of Canada (PCC).

What’s it like to work closely with members of your family?

It’s not necessarily easy for entrepreneurs to hand over the keys to the next generation. When my father appointed my brother and I as co-CEOs, he took a step back and said to us, “It is now your show.” And he kept his word. I appreciate immensely his vision, his generosity of character and his love for us. My brother André and I enjoy a very successful partnership. We reinforce each other, and we don’t move forward on major decisions unless we both agree.

What are you most proud of?

The creation of Power Financial in 1984 laid the foundation for our future success. But it was essential that we hire amazing people to build the enterprise, such as Robert Gratton [executive chairman of PCC], Jeffrey Orr [president and CEO of PCC] and many others. We have been fortunate in being able to grow Power Corporation many times over. That would not have happened without the talents and great culture of the teams we assembled.

What’s your advice for the next generation of business leaders?

Be clear on your values and ensure they are shared across your team and your organization. For me, I stress responsibility, respect, hard work, courage and empathy for everyone who crosses your path. Building relationships of trust and loyalty, internally and externally, is fundamental to your success.


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André Desmarais

André Desmarais led the industrial and media divisions at Power Corporation of Canada (PCC). Appointed co-CEO in 1996, he and his brother, Paul Desmarais, Jr., shifted the company’s interests into financial services. He also played a pivotal role in the opening of Canada’s business relations with China, over a period of several decades, beginning in the 1980s.

What is it like to work closely with members of your family?

I am grateful to our dad, who put a lot of thought and care into our development as decision-makers and leaders. He gave us great opportunities where we could learn alongside our own teams. My partnership with my brother, formerly as co-CEOs and now sharing board duties, has been remarkable. We have different styles and skills, but we complement each other and have remained aligned on shared values.

How have you pivoted in your business?

By paying close attention to business and societal trends, consulting widely, studying situations carefully and being prepared to move boldly. One example is overseeing La Presse, which we owned for 50 years. It was a major decision to go 100-per-cent digital and no longer publish a print edition, but it saved a vital media enterprise.

What are you most proud of?

Working with my brother to drive Power Corporation’s pivot from a diversified, industrial and media holding company into financial services; developing the Canada-

China relationship, which is essential for Canada’s future prosperity; and ensuring when we divested of La Presse, we left it in good shape. Its contribution to civic journalism in French is critical to our democracy in a bilingual, multicultural Canada.

What’s your advice for the next generation of business leaders?

Remember to have fun and enjoy what you do. Don’t be afraid to think about international opportunities. Engage with your community, be constructive, give back, and help others. It’s not all about making money.


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Hassan Khosrowshahi

Hassan Khosrowshahi is an Iranian-Canadian entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist who settled in Vancouver in 1981, dedicating his time to building businesses in British Columbia and across the country. He founded Future Shop, a consumer electronics chain acquired by Best Buy in 2001. Today, he focuses on real estate development, pharmaceutical royalties and music business through Persis Holdings Ltd.

What unique business challenges did you face as an immigrant?

I arrived in a country where I did not know many people or have any background to fall back on. As a new immigrant, you would be looked upon with suspicion about what you were capable of. This was the biggest impediment, but you have to start somewhere and eventually people got to know me. It was a question of building relationships over time – there was no other way to do it and it required a lot of patience and perseverance.

What’s your advice for the next generation of business leaders?

Before you branch out on your own, go work for successful companies who are on the cutting edge of the business world. Learn from them directly about what interests you and see it as an opportunity to test your skills there. I wouldn’t advise starting your own business right off the bat. Maybe one in a thousand people succeed and when you think you can do it too, you don’t hear about the other 999 who failed.

What’s next for you?

I am 82 years old, but I’m not retiring yet. Would I start a new business? If I see a new opportunity, of course I would.


Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with JA Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.