Skip to main content

Toronto Family urges 'thorough' investigation into deaths of Apotex CEO Barry Sherman, wife Honey

Honey and Barry Sherman. Mr. Sherman is the chair and chief executive officer of Apotex Inc.

Janice Pinto/The Globe and Mail

The family of Barry and Honey Sherman urged the Toronto Police Services to conduct a "thorough, intensive and objective criminal investigation," and asked the media to refrain from further reporting on the cause of their deaths until the investigation is completed.

"Our parents shared an enthusiasm for life and commitment to their family and community totally inconsistent with the rumors regrettably circulated in the media as to the circumstances surrounding their deaths," they said in a statement issued Saturday.

"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."

Story continues below advertisement

The Globe and other media outlets, citing police sources, earlier reported that police are investigating the deaths of the Toronto billionaire and his wife as a murder-suicide.

A Toronto police source told the Globe investigators are working on the theory that Mr. Sherman killed his wife and then took his own life.

The real estate agent who had been helping to sell the pair's North York home found the bodies Friday morning.

Police services spokesman Mark Pugash would not confirm details of the case, only stating the homicide squad is in overall charge of the investigation because it has better resources than the local police station, 33 Division.

"Homicide is working with 33 Division on this until we get the post mortem. When we get the post-mortem result, that should give us a good indication of where the investigation goes from there," he told The Globe.

There was no sign of forced entry to the home. There was no note left behind to explain what had happened, the source said.

The Shermans had just put their house on Old Colony Road up for sale for $6.9-million.

Story continues below advertisement

Police have been tight-lipped about the case and have not publicly updated the investigation. They would not say that the two bodies were the Shermans but say they are treating the deaths as "suspicious."

However, Mr. Sherman's company, Apotex, released a statement confirming the deaths: "We've been informed of the tragic news that Barry and Honey Sherman have unexpectedly passed away. All of us at Apotex are deeply shocked and saddened by this news and our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time."

A Toronto police source said the bodies were found Friday at the edge of their basement pool, hanging from a railing that surrounded the pool. Investigators are working on the theory that Mr. Sherman killed his wife, hung her body and then hanged himself at the pool's edge, the source said.

Police, firefighters and paramedics responded to a 911 call for a medical emergency at 11:44 a.m., Constable Hopkinson said. But he would not say who made the call. He said the pair were pronounced dead at the scene.

The Shermans, the family said, had just welcomed a new grandchild. Mr. Sherman was 75 and Ms. Sherman, 70. They had four children.

Last Monday, Ms. Sherman had e-mailed friends to book social dates on the couple's upcoming Florida trip.

Story continues below advertisement

"Looking forward to getting together in Florida. I am coming south Monday, December 18 - Friday, January 12," she wrote in the email.

"Barry is coming south for Monday December 25 & going home with me Jan. 12. Please let me know your dates south asap so i can place in my calendar... Looking forward to hearing back asap. Xoxo Honey"

Apotex posted a message on its website paying tribute to Mr. Sherman's entrepreneurial and philanthropic efforts. "Dr. Sherman gave his life to the singular purpose of our organization – innovating for patient affordability," the company said. "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."

Mr. Sherman's net worth was recently estimated to be $4.77-billion by Canadian Business, an online magazine, making him the 15th-richest person in Canada. He had donated widely to political and community causes after making his fortune in the pharmaceutical world.

The Shermans have handed out millions of dollars to hospitals, universities and the United Jewish Appeal. Honey was on the board of governors at York University, the Baycrest Foundation and Mount Sinai Hospital. She is also the past chair of the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto and former chair of the Holocaust Education Centre.

Former city councillor Mike Feldman, who has known the Sherman family for years, said relatives of the Shermans who were with Mr. Feldman vacationing in California were told by other family members in Toronto about the deaths. Mr. Feldman said the family was in a "complete state of shock" and was having trouble getting information from the police about what happened.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Feldman said family members had told him that Mr. Sherman had not been at work on Thursday, and that no one had heard from his wife that day, either.

"We don't know what happened. A family member got information and called me.… We don't want to interfere with a police investigation, but on the other hand, the kinfolk want to know about their kinfolk."

Lights were on inside the home when the bodies were discovered Friday, as police officers worked inside, illuminating what appeared to be a Frida Kahlo canvas.

Speaking to reporters outside the house, police spokesman Constable David Hopkinsonaid police did not believe there was a threat to public safety.

A neighbour said that despite their vast wealth, the Shermans lived a low-key life.

A man who identified himself as a personal trainer arrived at the scene saying he had an appointment to train Ms. Sherman. He asked if he could duck under the police tape to get inside, and was told no. He spoke briefly with officers and left visibly shaken.

Sarah Alvi lives with her family across the road from the Sherman home and has known the couple for four years. She said that she last saw them two weeks ago, when they had an open house – and could not imagine anything like this happening to a pair she described as the "best neighbours" and the pride of the neighbourhood.

"It's heartbreaking. It's shocking," Ms. Alvi said. "Knowing who they were, it wouldn't come to your mind at all. "

Mr. Sherman had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 and had surgery that year. In 2007 he told the Globe and Mail that the operation had gone well and that he was back working fulltime.

He and his wife were well known as polar opposites in many ways. While Ms. Sherman was an outgoing socialite who had a passion for several charities, Mr. Sherman was more reserved and didn't like going to community events, according to those who knew the couple personally.

Friends and colleagues have long said that Mr. Sherman was consumed with work and that he devoted almost all of his time and energy to Apotex, frequently sleeping for only a few hours a night. He had almost no outside interests and no taste for luxury, once driving an old car into such disrepair that Ms. Sherman went out and bought him a new Mercedes.

"Barry liked to do one thing: work. He worked seven days a week and he loved it," says Murray Rubin, 87, a retired pharmaceutical industry colleague.

"He loved the action—the modus operandi of the pharmaceutical business," he says.

Mr. Rubin described the couple as kind and generous, and says he was shocked by the news of their deaths, and expressed disbelief that it could have been a murder-suicide.

"That is impossible," he said Saturday.

The news shocked other friends and business associates, some who started posting tributes online.

David Palmer, vice-president of advancement at the University of Toronto, grew to know the couple over the past decade through their philanthropy and volunteer work at U of T.

Ms. Sherman was "always very positive, she was bright, she was engaging, she was open and transparent and spoke her mind," he said. She had served with the faculty of social work's advisory committee. "She was interested in people experiencing challenges, people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and also in advanced research, particularly in the area of health sciences."

Mayor John Tory told reporters Saturday he and his colleagues are "shocked and saddened" by their deaths. "These were extraordinary citizens of the city of Toronto, and of this region and of this country."

Ms. Sherman, he said, "was a volunteer extraordinaire. She lit up any room that she came into."

Eric Hoskins, Ontario's Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, tweeted: "I am beyond words right now. My dear friends Barry and Honey Sherman have been found dead. Wonderful human beings, incredible philanthropists, great leaders in health care. A very, very sad day. Barry, Honey, rest in peace."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter that he and his wife Sophie "are saddened by news of the sudden passing of Barry and Honey Sherman. Our condolences to their family & friends, and to everyone touched by their vision & spirit."

Businessman Frank D'Angelo cited Mr. Sherman as "my best friend and my strength."

"There are moments in life that test your intestinal fortitude. I'm weakened & heartbroken by the tragic & devastating news of the untimely death of Barry & his wife Honey," D'Angelo tweeted Friday.

Mr. Sherman was known to have bankrolled many of Mr. D'Angelo's projects over the years, including the Steelback Brewery—which ultimately racked up millions of dollars in debts before being taken over by Mr. Sherman's son, Jon, in 2008.

With reports from Tu Thanh Ha, Joe Friesen, Molly Hayes and Paul Waldie

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter