Frere and Desmarais Families of Belgium and Canada -- The Real Power Behind Imerys

Albert Frère and Yves-René Nanot of Imerys advisory board

THE OWNERSHIP STRUCTURE of Imerys is both simple and complex. It is simple in that two families control Imerys: the Desmarais family of Canada and the Frere family of Belgium. However, standing on top of Imerys are layers of holding companies, also controlled by the two families and spread out over two continents. Holding companies, Pargesa Holding SA and Groupe Bruxelles Lambert SA own one half of Imerys stock. The remainder is publicly held and traded on the Paris Stock Exchange or Bourse.

Paul Desmarais Sr.

The 73-year-old patriarch of the Desmarais family has a personal net worth in excess of $1 billion (Canadian), and is the eighth richest person in Canada.

Desmarais has a longstanding interest in art and is a financial supporter of the Canadian national gallery and of smaller galleries and theaters in Montreal. Newspaper reports describe him as cool and cerebral; in contrast to Albert Frère, who is described as having a hands-on approach, Desmarais rarely intervenes directly in business dealings. Paul Desmarais Jr. describes his father as the strategist, and Frère the tactician, in their acquisitions. Desmarais, who spends his winters in Palm Beach, Florida, told the National Post, "I've thought about [leaving Canada] a thousand times. So many of my friends have done it. But I haven't because I'm a Canadian, I've made my money here, and I've got to fight it out."

Paul Desmarais Jr.

Paul Desmarais Jr., 45, is the chairman and co-CEO of Power Corporation of Canada, and chairman of the board of Power Financial. He is the older of Paul Desmarais Sr.'s two sons. Desmarais is an outspoken opponent of Quebec nationalism, and actively lobbies powerful business leaders in Quebec to support Canadian federalism. He has expended considerable effort to portray himself as the leading Quebecois businessman in favor of higher education, and serves as the chairman of the board of directors of the International Faculty Advisory Board of McGill University. He is also the chairman of the Canada-China Business Council. He is on the international advisory board of Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold mining company outside South Africa. He also is a co-chair of the Centraide Campaign 1998, a Montreal volunteer mutual aid network.

André Desmarais

At 43, the younger son of Paul Desmarais Sr. is president and co-CEO of Power Corp. He is primarily responsible for the publishing arm of the Power Corp. Desmarais Sr. has publicly announced that he has carved out separate areas of responsibility for his two sons, to prevent power struggles between them. André Desmarais's wife, France, is the daughter of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Baron Albert Frère

"Nothing really gets done in France or Belgium these days without Frère being involved somehow," said a spokesman in Forbes. The 74-year-old enjoys personal oversight and involvement in business deals, and is described by Pargesa vice-chairman Aimery Langlois-Meurinne as someone who "loves to get involved in all kinds of negotiations." Said Gerald Frère of his father and Paul Desmarais Sr.: "They will never retire. They are deal-makers and they never retire. They are deal-makers and they need to do business. It's their drug."