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Jakarta Post

Suspicious deaths of billionaire Canada couple investigated

  • Josh Wingrove


Ottawa   /   Sun, December 17, 2017   /   12:48 pm
Suspicious deaths of billionaire Canada couple investigated The late Barry Sherman, founder of Canada's global pharmaceutical giant Apotex, speaks during a promotion video (APOTEX/AFP/ Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS )

Canadian police continue to weigh whether to open a homicide investigation after the deaths of billionaire pharmaceutical executive Bernard “Barry” Sherman and his wife shocked the country’s corporate and political worlds.

The bodies of the 75-year-old founder of Apotex Pharmaceutical Holdings Inc. and his wife Honey Sherman were found in their home in the Toronto neighborhood of North York on Friday under what police called suspicious circumstances.

Tributes poured in from prominent Canadians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. As media reports citing anonymous sources surfaced Saturday, the Shermans’ children issued a statement calling for a full criminal investigation, and criticizing the police and the media.

“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’ children said. They derided “rumors” about the circumstances of the parents’ deaths, adding that the pair “shared an enthusiasm for life.”

‘Tragic Deaths’

“We urge the Toronto Police Service to conduct a thorough, intensive and objective criminal investigation, and urge the media to refrain from further reporting as to the cause of these tragic deaths until the investigation is completed,” the family said in the statement.

Toronto police were waiting on autopsy results, which were expected on Saturday, before determining if the service’s homicide unit would take over the case.

“We are treating the deaths as suspicious,” Toronto Police Constable David Hopkinson said in a phone interview. Investigators aren’t searching for any suspects at this time, he said.

Tributes flooded in as news of the Shermans’ deaths spread. “Our condolences to their family & friends, and to everyone touched by their vision & spirit,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter. 

‘Singular Purpose’

In a statement on Saturday, Apotex hailed Sherman’s role in growing the company from a two-person firm in 1974 to a global giant -- one of the world’s largest generic drug makers, employing some 11,000 people including more than 6,000 in Canada.

Sherman “gave his life to the singular purpose of our organization -- innovating for patient affordability,” Apotex said in the statement. “Patients around the world live healthier and more fulfilled lives thanks to his life’s work.”

Sherman, who had a Ph.D. in astrophysics from MIT, was chairman of the closely held Canadian generic-drug maker and formerly chair of Cangene Corp., a Canadian biotechnology firm. He was ranked recently by Forbes as Canada’s 12th-richest person with a net worth of about $3 billion.

The billionaire held a fundraiser for Trudeau in August 2015, shortly before his Liberals won the election, that was later reportedly investigated by the country’s lobbying watchdog.

‘Beyond Words’

Linda Frum, a Canadian senator who recently awarded a medal to Honey Sherman for community service, was among those paying tribute to someone she described as one of the most beloved members of Canada’s Jewish community.

“I am gutted by the loss of Honey and Barry Sherman. Our community is steeped in grief. I am heartbroken,” she said on Twitter.

Eric Hoskins, health minister of Ontario province, described the couple as “incredible philanthropists” and said he was “beyond words right now.” Brad Duguid, Ontario’s minister for economic development, said he was “deeply shocked & saddened.” 

The Shermans’ 12,440-square-foot home had recently been placed on the market for almost C$7 million ($5.4 million).