Quebec is home to the second most billionaires in Canada after Ontario. While many of Quebec's richest people are heirs to wealthy families in traditional industries such as beer, retail and financial services, many of the new billionaires have made their fortunes in the technology sector. We are now going to introduce you to the 15 richest people in Quebec and explain how they amassed their fortune.
Our top 15 is based on the Forbes Real Time Billionaires List and the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. You may be surprised to see that the Desmarais family, among others, are not included. There is an explanation! Many of the richest people in Quebec prefer to remain discreet about their wealth, and inheritances make the calculations even more difficult. Although the Forbes and Bloomberg lists are reliable, it is not always possible to include everybody. To give you the most complete picture possible, we have grouped a number of billionaires in the last section of this article. Even if they are no longer among the 15 richest people in Quebec, they are still… very rich!
- 15. Réal Plourde – $1.5 billion
- 14. Guy Laliberté – $1.6 billion
- 13. Sharon Azrieli – $1.6 billion
- 12. Francesco Saputo – $1.7 billion
- 11. Philip Fayer – $1.7 billion
- 10. Stephen Jarislowsky – $2 billion
- 9. Richard Fortin – $2.1 billion
- 8. Pierre Karl Péladeau – $2.4 billion
- 7. Robert Miller – $2.4 billion
- 6. Charles Bronfman – $3.4 billion
- 5. Serge Godin – $3.4 billion
- 4. Jacques D'Amours – $3.9 billion
- 3. Jean Coutu – $4 billion
- 2. Emanuele (Lino) Saputo – $6.6 billion
- 1. Alain Bouchard – $8 billion
- BONUS: More Wealthy Quebecers
15. Réal Plourde – $1.5 billion
Réal Plourde is one of the four men behind Alimentation Couche-Tard, founded in 1980. The chain is known as the Canadian convenience store giant and owns the Circle K chain. Today, Plourde remains on the company's board of directors. With thousands of stores, Couche-Tard has annual sales of $63 billion. Headquartered in Laval, the company sells convenience goods, trucking fuel and other products.
The other three co-founders, all among the wealthiest Quebecers, are Alain Bouchard, Richard Fortin and Jacques D'Amours. Over the years, Réal Plourde has held several positions within the company, including chief operating officer and director of technical services. From 2011 to 2014, he served as chairman of the board. Forbes estimates Plourde's worth at C$1.5 billion (US$1.1 billion).
14. Guy Laliberté – $1.6 billion
He is a space tourist, a street musician and a very rich man. There is no such thing as the average billionaire, but among them, Guy Laliberté certainly stands out. He is the co-founder of Cirque du Soleil, an entertainment giant with an international footprint that, before its bankruptcy, was worth more than a billion dollars.
The idea for Cirque du Soleil was born in Guy Laliberté's mind after a childhood visit to the Ringling Brothers Circus in Quebec. This visit inspired him to create his own shows in Canada before leaving for Europe at the age of 18. There, he played accordion in the streets and presented fire-eating and stilt-walking shows. Back in Canada, he continued to perform and later founded Cirque du Soleil with Gilles Ste-Croix in 1984.
At its peak, Cirque du Soleil had more than 4,000 performers, including acrobats, jugglers, dancers and, of course, fire-eaters. Laliberté has since sold his stake in the company, but that doesn't mean he's stopped doing anything. He has become a major player in the poker world and has also bought his own island in French Polynesia. In the midst of all this, he also became the first Canadian space tourist and created the One Drop Foundation to help ensure access to clean water around the world.
Like the acrobats in his shows, Guy Laliberté always seems to land on his feet as a businessman. While Cirque du Soleil went bankrupt in 2020, his personal fortune was not affected. Guy Laliberté had sold his stake to the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in early 2020. According to Forbes, Guy Laliberté is worth C$1.6 billion (US$1.2 billion).
13. Sharon Azrieli – $1.6 billion
Daughter of a billionaire real estate tycoon and opera singer, Sharon Azrieli is worth C$1.6 billion (US$1.2 billion) according to Forbes. The origins of Sharon Azrieli's fortune date back to when her father, David Azrieli, fled Poland at the start of World War II and ended up in Montreal in the early 1950s.
Despite the hustle and bustle of his early years, he quickly established a construction company in Montreal. He went from building duplexes to massive skyscrapers and shopping malls, including several in Israel, eventually building a fortune of over $1 billion. While much of his fortune is tied to his philanthropic foundation, his children have also benefited.
Sharon Azrieli, who inherited a substantial portion of her father's fortune, has performed in some of the world's greatest opera houses and interpreted classics such as Romeo and Juliet and Don Pasquale. She has also studied religion and has performed as a cantor in a Quebec synagogue. Sharon Azrieli is a recipient of the Ordre national du Québec and sits on the board of directors of the philanthropic organization founded by her father, the Azrieli Foundation.
12. Francesco Saputo – $1.7 billion
Francesco Saputo is the son of Giuseppe Saputo and holds an interest in his family's Canadian dairy company. His father founded the company in 1954 with $500 and a bicycle for deliveries after immigrating from Italy. His nephew, Lino Jr, the son of Emanuele (Lino) Saputo, is the current president of the company. Forbes estimates Francesco Saputo's fortune at C$1.7 billion (US$1.3 billion).
Headquartered in Montreal, Saputo is one of the largest dairy processors in the world. It sells cheese, milk and other products in more than 60 countries. It employs more than 17,000 people and has dozens of plants and brands, including Milk2Go and Armstrong. The publicly traded Montreal-based company had sales of $11.9 billion in 2022.
11. Philip Fayer – $1.7 billion
Philip Fayer belongs to the class of billionaire dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Philip Fayer was a student at Concordia University when he founded a payment processing company in 2003 with the help of his co-founder Lester Hernandes. Philip Fayer never finished his studies at Concordia, as his company, now known as Nuvei, quickly became successful. Forbes estimates Fayer's fortune at $1.7 billion Canadian ($1.3 billion US).
The reason for this rapid success is that at the time, bank-independent payment processors were a relatively new thing. They helped retailers, both online and offline, accept credit and debit card payments without the help of banks. Fayer's financial technology company went on to attract big-name investors like Goldman Sachs.
Based on its success, the company has expanded internationally, offering its services in many countries in 150 different currencies. In 2020, the company raised $805 million in its initial public offering (IPO), which led to the company's listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol NVEI.
10. Stephen Jarislowsky – $2 billion
Immigrants play a major role in the list of Quebec's richest people. Born in Berlin, Stephen Jarislowsky left Nazi Germany for the Netherlands and then France before immigrating to the United States in the 1940s. Once in the United States, he earned an MBA from Harvard University. Jarislowsky also served in the U.S. Army before moving to Montreal to work for Alcan.
In 1955, he opened the doors to what would become one of the world's most successful investment firms: Jarislowsky Fraser Limited. He remained CEO until 2012 and later served on the board of the Canadian asset manager. In 2018, Scotiabank acquired Jarislowsky Fraser in a transaction valued at $950 million.
Stephen Jarislowsky has served on the boards of some of the world's largest and most influential companies, such as SNC Lavalin and Swiss Bank Corp.
This businessman speaks five languages and has received several honorary doctorates. He and his wife are known to have funded numerous university chairs in fields ranging from economics to religion. According to Forbes, Stephen Jarislowsky is worth $2 billion Canadian ($1.5 billion US).
9. Richard Fortin – $2.1 billion
If you've ever seen a red owl winking at you during one of your late-night convenience store stops, then you know how billionaire Richard Fortin made his fortune. Fortin is one of the co-founders of the Couche-Tard convenience store chain, better known as Circle K outside Quebec. According to Forbes, Richard Fortin is worth C$2.1 billion (US$1.6 billion).
Alimentation Couche-Tard was founded by Alain Bouchard, who started with a single convenience store in 1980. Fortin joined the company in 1984, just before it expanded significantly by acquiring other convenience store chains. Prior to joining Bouchard, Fortin earned a degree in finance and was president of Quebec-based investment firm Société Générale S.A.
Fortin's business prowess has attracted the attention of the Quebec business community. He has served on the board of media giant Transcontinental and the National Bank of Canada. Fortin also established the Lise and Richard Fortin Foundation, which provides money to a variety of causes, including those that help children and the elderly.
8. Pierre Karl Péladeau – $2.4 billion
Pierre Karl Péladeau, a former leader of the Parti Québécois, is more of a businessman than a politician. Now head of Quebecor, a major player in the Canadian media and telecommunications industry, Pierre Karl Péladeau is impossible to ignore in Quebec, where most of the company's assets are concentrated.
Pierre-Karl Péladeau owes his fortune to his father, the late Pierre Péladeau, who founded Québecor in 1965. Although Pierre Péladeau had been involved in a number of business ventures from an early age, it was the acquisition of the Rosemont newspaper, a neighbourhood paper that he bought with a loan, that allowed him to begin his rise in the world of media and printing.
Québecor was created one year after Pierre Péladeau Sr. launched Le Journal de Montréal in 1964, when the daily La Presse was on strike. Over the years, he has continued to expand his media empire through acquisitions in the media and printing industries.
Although Pierre Karl Péladeau held several roles at Québecor, he took on a more prominent role after his father's death in 1997. One of his major accomplishments as CEO of Quebecor was the acquisition of Sun Media, which made Quebecor the number two newspaper company in Canada, and the acquisition of Quebec telecommunications giant Videotron, which now accounts for the majority of Quebecor's profits. In 2019, the company was among the 15 largest companies in Quebec, with 9900 employees. In 2023, he will attack the cell phone industry with the acquisition of Freedom Mobile.
In addition to running Quebecor, Pierre Karl Péladeau has played an important role in Quebec politics. Indeed, he served as the leader of the opposition party, the Parti Québécois, from 2015 to 2016, before leaving politics to return to his position as CEO of Quebecor. According to Forbes, Pierre Karl Péladeau is worth C$2.4 billion (US$1.8 billion).
7. Robert Miller – $2.4 billion
Robert Miller is the founder of Future Electronics, one of the world's top four electronic component suppliers. Robert Miller founded his company in 1968 and grew it into the billion dollar company it is today.
It was in the world of electronics that our billionaire made his fortune. In 1968, he launched his company Future Electronics and, eight years later, bought out his partner's shares for $500,000. Today, his company is one of the largest distributors of electronic components in the world. The Montreal-based company generates more than $5 billion in sales annually and has 169 branches in 44 countries.
It is believed that a large part of the company's success comes from its ability to buy large inventories and hold them for its customers. And that's the second part of the company's success: focusing on customer loyalty and happiness. To that end, all Future Electronics employees are required to complete a minimum of 10 hours of training each month.
According to Forbes, Robert Miller is worth C$2.4 billion (US$1.8 billion). He is a strong advocate for the environment and has launched a global initiative to reduce paper waste. He also provides transportation for company employees in an effort to reduce the number of cars on the road. However, his reputation has been tarnished following allegations of sexual abuse in 2023.
6. Charles Bronfman – $3.4 billion
Although he no longer lives in Quebec, Charles Bronfman was born there. He inherited the world's largest distiller of alcohol, Seagram. In 2000, he and his nephew decided to sell the family business to Vivendi in a deal valued at $30 billion. According to Forbes, Charles Bronfman's net worth is C$3.4 billion (US$2.5 billion).
Bronfman also founded Claridge Inc. in 1987, a private equity firm. He runs Claridge with his son. He was also the majority owner of the Montreal Expos in Major League Baseball from 1968 to 1990.
Charles is a leading philanthropist who has signed The Giving Pledge and written two books on the subject. To date, he has donated approximately $350 million. In 2002, his children launched the Charles Bronfman Award for young humanitarians whose work is rooted in their Jewish values.
5. Serge Godin – $3.4 billion
When you look at the history of some of the richest people in the world, it doesn't necessarily take a lot of money to start a business that will one day reach a billion dollars. Serge Godin started his information technology company in the basement of his parents' Montreal home. He founded CGI in 1976 and was later joined by co-founder André Imbeau. Between them, and with the help of a single telephone, they were able to find their first clients.
CGI's co-founders wanted to offer IT consulting services to companies that were wondering how to best utilize their IT resources. One client turned into ten, then a hundred… And ten years later, they found themselves on the Toronto Stock Exchange, where they listed to obtain financing to buy out small IT services companies.
Today, CGI provides services such as business consulting, IT infrastructure support and application development services to clients around the world. The company has made more than 70 acquisitions since its founding and employs over 77,000 professionals on several continents.
Serge Godin, who has served as CGI's Executive Chairman since stepping down as CEO in 2006, has received several honors, including the Order of Canada, and was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. According to Forbes, Serge Godin is worth C$3.4 billion (US$2.5 billion).
4. Jacques D'Amours – $3.9 billion
Jacques D'Amours is one of the lesser known founders of the Alimentation Couche-Tard convenience store chain. According to Forbes, Jacques D'Amours is worth $3.9 billion Canadian ($2.9 billion US). Although Alain Bouchard opened the first Couche-Tard convenience store on his own in 1980, he was joined soon after by D'Amours and two other co-founders.
Together, they transformed a Montreal convenience store chain into a Quebec chain. They went on to conquer Ontario with the acquisition of Becker's and Mac's in the 1990s. In the 2000s, the company became a global player with the acquisition of Circle K convenience stores. Today, Circle K's can be found around the world, with 15,000 locations on five continents.
Jacques D'Amours held various roles in the company until his retirement in 2014. He was Director of Technical Services and Vice President of Sales for Couche-Tard. He still sits on the board of directors of Alimentation Couche-Tard and is the second largest shareholder of the company, after Alain Bouchard.
3. Jean Coutu – $4 billion
He went from being a pharmacist to one of the richest pharmacists in the world. According to Forbes, Jean Coutu is worth C$4 billion (US$3 billion). He opened his first pharmacy in Quebec in 1969 and, through clever tactics, that one pharmacy has grown into one of the largest drugstore chains in Canada.
Part of this success was due to the fact that Jean Coutu not only sold pharmaceuticals, but also a variety of discounted items such as school supplies, toilet paper and other conveniences that, at the time, were not offered by competing pharmacies. And since, at the time, only drugstores could be open at all hours of the day and night, people turned to Jean Coutu drugstores when they needed certain things after the opening hours of other stores.
Jean Coutu first expanded in Quebec, then in Ontario and New Brunswick. But in the early 1990s, the company began buying up drugstore chains in the United States, eventually merging its U.S. operations with Rite Aid, which became the third largest drugstore chain in the United States. Rite Aid, however, did not generate the hoped-for return, and Jean Coutu's U.S. adventure ended in 2013, when the company sold its last shares in Rite Aid.
In 2018, The Jean Coutu Group was sold to Quebec-based grocery chain Metro in a deal worth $4.5 billion.
2. Emanuele (Lino) Saputo – $6.6 billion
From the hills of Sicily to the winding roads of Montreal, billionaire Emanuele Saputo, better known as Lino Saputo, has transformed a small cheese factory into an international food processing giant. According to Forbes, Lino Saputo is worth C$6.6 billion (US$4.9 billion).
Saputo's story begins in Italy, where his father, Giuseppe Saputo, was an artisan cheese maker. The Saputo family immigrated to Montreal, Canada in the 1950s with Lino, then a teenager, and continued their cheese-making business. The family founded Saputo in 1954, and Lino Saputo became President in 1969. The company grew from there until it went public in 1997.
Saputo dairy products can be found across Canada and around the world under several brand names such as Cracker Barrel, Saputo and Milk2Go. At the time of writing, Saputo had a market value of $14 billion.
Lino Saputo is still at the helm of the company as Executive Chairman of the Board, while his son, Lino A. Saputo Jr. is the CEO of the family business. Joey Saputo, Lino Saputo's other son, is President of the Montreal Football Club, a soccer team he founded in 1992. He also has an interest in the European soccer team Bologna F.C.
1. Alain Bouchard – $8 billion
Alain Bouchard, who grew up in a mobile home, is now one of the richest people in Quebec. You may not know his name, but you've probably visited one of the 15,000 convenience stores of the company he founded: Alimentation Couche-Tard.
Alain Bouchard's story begins in Quebec when Bouchard's father's trucking business went bankrupt, forcing the family to move into a mobile home. While still a teenager, Alain Bouchard began working in the convenience store his brother managed. This convenience store was a franchisee of Perette, a well-known Quebec convenience store chain at the time.
Alain Bouchard's work did not go unnoticed, as he was later called upon to work for Perette, who gave him the responsibility of finding locations for new convenience stores. He then worked for the Provi-Soir convenience store chain, before opening the first convenience store in the chain that would become Alimentation Couche-Tard in 1980, at the age of 29.
It was only 5 years later, with the acquisition of a small regional chain in the Quebec City area called Couche-Tard, that the company adopted its current name. The company then made numerous acquisitions in Canada and around the world, including Perrette and Provi-Soir. However, it was the acquisition of Circle-K in 2003 that propelled Couche-Tard to become the second largest convenience store chain in the world, after 7-Eleven.
Today, Alain Bouchard is still executive chairman of Alimentation Couche-Tard, a position he has held since he appointed Brian Hannasch as the company's PDF in 2014. Alain Bouchard is also involved with the charitable foundation he established with his wife: the Sandra and Alain Bouchard Foundation. Among the foundation's most significant donations are a $4 million gift for research into mental disabilities and a $3 million gift for research into cell therapy for cancer treatment. According to Forbes, Alain Bouchard is worth approximately $8 billion Canadian ($6 billion US).
BONUS: More Wealthy Quebecers
Some individuals and large families are also known for their wealth, in addition to the top 15 we just presented. Canadian Business' information on their wealth dates back a few years. Here is their story and an estimate of their wealth.
Charles Sirois – $1.2 billion
If you were born after 1980, you may not be familiar with the product that kicked off Charles Sirois' business empire: the pager. Indeed, the billionaire's father, Simon Sirois, founded Setelco in the 1970s, becoming one of Canada's pioneers in paging.
Essentially, pagers allowed business people to send short text messages on a small electronic device that you could clip to your belt. Charles Sirois bought his father's company in 1978. The company was renamed Telesystem and became Canada's largest wireless company in the 1980s through its subsidiary National Pagette.
National Pagette then merged with Bell Cellular and together the two companies were renamed BCE Mobile. Building on this success, Telesystem launched a cell phone subsidiary in 1996: Fido. The company was so successful that it was acquired by Rogers for $1.4 billion in 2004 and is still a well-known cell phone brand in Canada today.
Telesystem sold a large portion of its cellular assets in the 2000s. Today, the company is better known for its investment activities. According to Canadian Business, Charles Sirois has accumulated a fortune of $1.2 billion.
Whether you drink beer or not, you've probably heard of Molson. While most people associate Molson with beer, the company also sponsors events across Canada and has become a household name. The Molson family history dates back to 1786, when John Molson immigrated from England and became a partner in a small brewery in Montreal. He later became the sole owner of the Molson Brewery in Montreal.
The Molson family also financed the country's first steamboat and the construction of the first railroad. More recently, the Molson family purchased the Montreal Canadiens field hockey team.
Molson merged with Coors in the mid-2000s and is now known as Molson Coors. Although Molson Coors is now a publicly traded company, the family still plays a major role in its operations in Canada. The Molson Family Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Molson family that has donated to and supported a wide variety of causes in Canada, such as education and the arts. According to Canadian Business, the Molson family is worth $1.8 billion.
Kruger Family – $1.9 billion
The Kruger family history dates back to 1904, when American Joseph Kruger brought his family to Canada and opened a fine paper business in Montreal. His son, Gene Kruger, took over the business in the 1920s and expanded it by adding newsprint, tissue and paperboard to the list of products manufactured by the family business.
Gene Kruger's son, Joseph Kruger II, took his forefather's vision for the business a step further by expanding it into a myriad of other niche markets. The company entered the energy sector in 2004 and two years later, the wine and spirits sector. According to Canadian Business, the Kruger family is worth $1.9 billion.
While pulp and paper remains one of the company's core businesses, it is innovating to create advanced materials such as cutting-edge cellulosic biomaterials. As we know, the demand for paper is rapidly declining and their initiatives in environmentally friendly materials will help ensure that the fourth generation of Kruger inherits a huge fortune.
Rossy family – $2.5 billion
The Rossy family is behind the green and yellow sign that can be seen across Canada on shopping streets and malls. The Rossy family is behind the Dollarama dollar store chain. It all started with Salim Rassy, who emigrated from Lebanon to Canada in 1910, where his last name became Rossy. Once in Montreal, he opened a small general store called S. Rossy.
Salim's son, George Rossy, took over in the 1930's and opened Rossy stores throughout Quebec. However, it was his son, Larry Rossy, who invented the dollar store concept after taking over from his father.
Larry Rossy transformed one of the family's stores into a Dollorama in the 1990s and it was so successful that many of the family's stores were transformed into Dollarama. Despite Dollarama's success, the family still operates the Rossy discount chain, which still has over 70 stores in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
Initially, Dollarama stores were only found in Eastern Canada, but in the 2000s, they expanded into Western Canada. Bain Capital, an investment firm, bought a stake in Dollarama in the mid-2000s and continued to expand the brand. Dollarama went public in 2009 under the stock symbol DOL. The company now has a market capitalization of over $23 billion. According to Canadian Business, the Rossy family has accumulated a fortune of $2.5 billion.
Desmarais Family – $5.8 billion
The Desmarais family is one of the few Canadian families to have retained economic and political influence through several generations. It all began when Paul Desmarais, a Franco-Ontarian born in 1927, bought a small bus company from his father for the symbolic sum of one dollar in 1951.
The company was on the verge of bankruptcy, but Paul Desmarais managed to turn it around and even expanded it by acquiring other bus lines in Ontario and Quebec. It wasn't until 1968, however, that he took control of Power Corporation of Canada, the conglomerate with which his name is associated today. From entrepreneur to financier, Paul Desmarais made acquisitions in several sectors such as paper and media.
However, Power Corporation's foray into the insurance and financial services sector allowed the company to become one of Canada's largest corporations.
Throughout his long career, Paul Desmarais valued not only his influence in the business world, but also his influence in political circles, both in Canada and abroad. His acquisition of La Presse and other newspapers in Quebec gave him influence in Quebec politics, but his influence extended far beyond Quebec's borders. In fact, his son, André Desmarais, married the daughter of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean-Chrétien, France Chrétien.
Paul Desmarais passed away in 2013 at the age of 86 and his wife Jacqueline followed him in 2018 at the age of 89. Their children Paul Jr, André, Louise and Sophie then inherited the family's massive fortune, valued at C$5.8 billion (US$4.8 billion) by Celebrity Net Worth.
Until 2019, Paul Desmarais' sons, Paul Jr. and André, remained at the helm of Power Corporation. Although they have retired from day-to-day operations, they still sit on the company's board of directors, and their respective sons have active roles within the financial conglomerate. Paul Desmarais III, the son of Paul Jr. is Vice President of Power Corporation, and is responsible for overseeing the conglomerate's massive investments in financial technology, which include a controlling interest in Wealthsimple.
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About The Author: Clément Deffrenne
Clément is passionate about finance. He is responsible for communication at Hardbacon, and will entertain you with his articles about a wide variety of topics.
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