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Barry Sherman’s son tells Apotex CEO to leave

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Two days before the anniversary of Barry Sherman’s murder, Jonathon Sherman told his father’s longtime partner and friend Jack Kay to leave Apotex, the generic drug company the two men built over 35 years.

Kay, the chief executive officer of Apotex, was sitting in his office last Tuesday when Jonathon Sherman walked in and said his services were no longer required, according to a source with knowledge of what happened.

Kay was told to return to Apotex after business hours to collect his belongings.

“It was like a gut punch. Actually, a gut punch is an understatement,” said an Apotex insider with knowledge of what happened on Dec. 11. By Monday of this week, Canada’s small pharmaceutical manufacturing industry was buzzing with the news that Kay was out the door.

At the time of Kay’s dismissal, plans were being made for a company-wide day of mourning later that week. The bodies of Barry Sherman and his wife Honey were found in their Toronto home on Dec. 15, 2017, two days after they are believed to have been strangled there in what police have termed a “targeted” double homicide.

Berman responded with a statement confirming Kay’s departure, but did not answer questions about the manner of his departure or the apparent tensions between Kay and Barry Sherman’s son.

“Upon the successful completion of our transition plan, Jack Kay is no longer with the company,” Berman wrote. “All of us at Apotex wish Jack the best of luck in his future pursuits. Jeff Watson, currently president and COO, is now ready to lead Apotex into the future. Jeff has been with Apotex for 24+ years, working in various capacities including chief commercial officer for North America, and president of global generics. Jeff is well respected within the industry, and we are very proud to have him leading the company.”

Reached by the Star Tuesday, Kay declined to comment.

The Sherman children recently offered a $10-million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever killed their parents. A tip line set up by the family directs callers to a private investigation team — not Toronto police, who had treated the case as a murder-suicide until a Star story prompted them to review the results of private autopsies conducted on the victims’ bodies.

Kay, 78, who owns shares in the privately held Apotex, was vice-chairman of the company’s board of directors but semi-retired from executive duties when Barry Sherman died. He was called into action by the Sherman family and the Apotex executive team in the days that followed, and in January was reinstated as chief executive officer, a job he had previously held for many years.

Kay was working for a pharmaceutical company in Montreal when he was headhunted by Barry Sherman in 1982 to be vice-president of sales and marketing for Apotex, the company Sherman had founded in the mid-1970s. In an interview with the Star last summer, Kay described how he and Sherman hit it off immediately.

“For each of us, it is fair to say we were the brother neither of us had,” he recalled. “That day in Montreal, he said, ‘Jack, come work with me. We will build Apotex and we will make a bit of money and have fun.’”

Kay, a workout enthusiast with a crushing handshake who maintained a strict diet, was the polar opposite of Sherman, who loved chocolate and junk food and only exercised because wife Honey insisted, say long time colleagues and friends. Kay and his wife, Pat, often dined with Barry and Honey, and the couples maintained a close friendship.

Under Sherman and Kay, Apotex grew to a multinational and multibillion dollar generic drug manufacturer, employing 10,000 people as of this year. According to Kay, and interviews with other Apotex executives over the past year, the two men worked closely for 35 years, starting in a shared office when the company was small and later in adjoining offices when it became a going concern. “Our connecting door was always open,” Kay recalled in an interview last summer.

Sherman was the scientist and the idea man, Kay said, while his job was to “operationalize” Sherman’s ideas.

When Barry and Honey Sherman were killed, majority ownership of the company went to the Sherman children: Lauren, 43, Jonathon, 35, Alexandra, 32, and Kaelen, 28. None of them were working at Apotex at the time.

The Sherman estate has four trustees: Jack Kay, Jonathon Sherman, Brad Krawczyk (who is Alexandra’s husband), and Alex Glasenberg, an Apotex executive who manages the family’s investments. A court has sealed the estate file, saying it contains information that could be of importance to the police investigation and due to a fear of the family of “kidnapping and violence” if details of the file were revealed. The Star is appealing the sealing order.

In the past year, Apotex continued its role as Canada’s biggest generic pharmaceutical company, but has sold off some of the international business interests Kay and Barry Sherman had grown or purchased. During the summer, Apotex announced it had sold its commercial interests in the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain and Belgium to “further accelerate our efforts to drive additional growth in the Americas,” according to a statement by Watson, who was hired many years ago by Kay and Sherman.

Kay had moved into Barry Sherman’s office in the Apotex headquarters at 150 Signet Dr., and photos of the two men together over the years — some in business suits, some in lab coats — adorned the walls prior to Kay’s departure last week.

According to sources in Canada’s pharmaceutical industry, there was growing tension between the 35-year-old Jonathon Sherman and Kay over what direction the company should take.

The sources say that Kay, as a shareholder and longtime executive, had planned to retire in the coming months but wanted to remain connected to Apotex out of loyalty to Barry Sherman and because of his institutional knowledge of the company. Kay wanted to make sure Sherman’s “legacy was protected,” sources say.

Jonathon Sherman keeps a low profile. He has briefly worked in some of his father’s non-pharmaceutical businesses over the years, and is involved in a storage company. He lives with his husband on a sprawling, heavily wooded property in King City, north of Toronto. Land registry records show Jonathon purchased the property at a cost of $2 million in 2006, when he was 23.

At the funeral for his parents, Jonathon noted that his father was often and understandably too busy to attend his sporting events when he was a child but, on the few occasions he did watch him play hockey or baseball, “those few games were my Stanley Cups and my World Series.” Jonathon also told mourners that his father was a “real-life super hero” and a “great Canadian.”

Of his mother, Jonathon told mourners that Honey was heavily involved in his childhood, making sure to attend all parent-teacher interviews and after-school events. “Our mother always had everything taken care of,” he said.

The Star has made several attempts to interview Jonathon Sherman about his parents and their legacy. However, the Star could not agree to Sherman’s terms — he wanted “sole and absolute discretion” to edit any information about him of which he did not approve.

At the funeral, Jack Kay told the mourners that “for 35 years I was incredibly privileged to work side by side, day by day with Barry.”

Kay said he was lucky to have “partnered with him as he built Apotex into the incredible enterprise it is today … Barry and I would refer to each other as brothers and I cannot tell you how much I will miss him.”

Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-312-3503 or kdonovan@thestar.ca. Follow him @_kevindonovan

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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