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What happened to Barry and Honey Sherman? What we know so far about the Apotex founder’s death


What happened to Barry and Honey Sherman? What we know so far about the Apotex founder's death

A pharmaceutical magnate and his wife are dead in a mysterious tragedy that has shocked their family and friends, and which police are investigating as 'suspicious.' Here's what we know

Barry and Honey Sherman attend the Brazilian Carnival Ball in 2011.

The basics

How they were found: On Friday morning, a real estate agent found Barry and Honey Sherman's bodies in the basement of their multimillion-dollar Toronto mansion at 50 Old Colony Rd., which the couple had put up for sale. There was no sign of forced entry to the home and no note left behind to explain what had happened, a police source told The Globe and Mail. Police did not confirm the dead couple's identity until Sunday.

How they died: Late Sunday night, police confirmed the cause of death as "ligature neck compression." Over the weekend, multiple media reports and a police source said investigators' initial theory was that Mr. Sherman might have killed his wife and then himself, but the family strongly dispute this.

Who's investigating this: Homicide detectives have taken the lead in investigating the deaths, police said Sunday, though the deaths have been classified only as "suspicious," not as homicide. Meanwhile, the Shermans' relatives want their own independent investigation, sources have told The Globe. They are getting informal assistance from defence lawyer Brian Greenspan, who said little about his "very limited role" in helping the family, except that he was not officially retained by them.

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Dec. 15: Police tape surrounds the Shermans’ home the day they were found dead.

Who they were

Bernard (Barry) Sherman

  • Age: 75
  • Business: Mr. Sherman was the founder of pharmaceutical giant Apotex. He started the company in 1974 and built it to become the largest Canadian-owned drug company. (Learn more about Mr. Sherman’s career and legacy in Paul Waldie’s obituary.)
  • Wealth: Mr. Sherman amassed a vast fortune, recently estimated by Canadian Business magazine at $4.77-billion, making him the 15th richest person in the country. (Learn more about how Mr. Sherman built his fortune in a 2007 Globe profile by Paul Waldie and Andy Hoffman.)

Honey Sherman

  • Age: 70
  • Philanthropy: The Shermans were among Canada’s most generous philanthropists. Ms. Sherman was a member of the board of the Baycrest Foundation and the York University Foundation. She also served on the boards of Mount Sinai’s Women’s Auxiliary and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

What the family says

The Shermans have four children and several grandchildren. In a statement Saturday, the family dismissed media reports that their parents died in a murder-suicide:

Our parents shared an enthusiasm for life and commitment to their family and community totally inconsistent with the rumours regrettably circulated in the media as to the circumstances surrounding their deaths. We are shocked and think it's irresponsible that police sources have reportedly advised the media of a theory which neither their family, their friends nor their colleagues believe to be true.

The Shermans' son Jonathon didn't mince words on Thursday at the public memorial for his parents, where he described the emotional toll their deaths have taken:

These last few days have been really fucked up for my family. ... I kept expecting my parents to walk through the front door and say, 'Everything will be fine.'

August, 2006: Barry Sherman is shown with a container of clopidogrel bisulfate, a generic drug for heart disease then newly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug was at the centre of a years-long patent feud between Mr. Sherman’s company, Apotex, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, maker of the brand-name equivalent Plavix.

The company he built

Mr. Sherman's death has caused grief at the generic-drug giant he founded, which is trying to find its way in a rapidly changing pharmaceutical industry.

Over 43 years, Mr. Sherman and Apotex made billions by reverse-engineering brand-name drugs, reproducing them and selling the cheaper alternatives. Today, the company has more than 10,000 people in research, development, manufacturing and distribution facilities worldwide, with more than 6,000 employees at its Canadian operations. Filling more than 89 million prescriptions in a year and exporting to 115 countries, the privately-held company says its worldwide sales exceed $2-billion a year.

But the company is under pressure on multiple fronts:

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  • Industry upheaval: Governments, health providers and regulatory agencies want more generic drugs at a lower cost, pinching profits and intensifying competition between the pharmaceutical firms supplying those drugs. Mr. Sherman, the company’s chief formulation officer, was key to designing almost every dose formulation Apotex brought to market and specialized in getting out generic alternatives to brand-name drugs before anyone else. His death could be a serious setback to the company’s future plans.
  • Litigation: Over the years, Apotex has faced down major legal challenges from Big Pharma companies, notably a 2006 lawsuit from Bristol-Myers Squibb to stop their generic form of a heart-disease drug. Mr. Sherman regularly sued rival companies and governments to protect Apotex’s patents. But he also struggled with legal action from family members alleging they had been cut out of the company.

Now, Apotex has a third challenge: Choosing a successor to Mr. Sherman. A company spokesman said there are "no plans being contemplated to change the ownership of Apotex," a private company where Mr. Sherman was principal shareholder. In an earlier statement, Apotex also praised the founder's legacy and said it would continue:

Dr. Sherman gave his life to the singular purpose of our organization – innovating for patient affordability. Patients around the world live healthier and more fulfilled lives thanks to his life's work, and his significant impact on health care and health-care sustainability will have an enduring impact for many years to come. As employees, we are proud of his tremendous accomplishments, honoured to have known him, and vow to carry on with the Apotex purpose in his honour.

Dec. 21: The caskets arrive during a memorial service for the Shermans in Mississauga.

Dec. 21: Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrive at the Shermans’ memorial.

The outpouring of grief

The couple's death was met with heartfelt tributes from the political, business and charitable leaders Mr. Sherman befriended in his long career. Toronto's Jewish community mourned the philanthropists' death, with a memorial page set up by the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto receiving scores of remembrance messages. On Thursday, thousands gathered to pay their respects at a funeral service at Mississauga's International Centre.

With reports from Paul Waldie, Kelly Grant, Tu Thanh Ha, Andrew Willis, Tim Kiladze, Alexandra Posadzki, Josh O'Kane, Kelly Grant, Jeff Gray, Joe Friesen, Molly Hayes, Susan Krashinsky Robertson and The Canadian Press

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