Toronto billionaire, wife found dead; Police call deaths 'suspicious' - InfoNews

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Toronto billionaire, wife found dead; Police call deaths 'suspicious'

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December 15, 2017 - 9:00 PM

Toronto billionaire and philanthropist Barry Sherman and his wife were found dead in their mansion Friday, and police said they were investigating the deaths as suspicious.

Const. David Hopkinson would not identify the two bodies found at the home of Apotex founder Bernard "Barry" Sherman and his wife Honey. But Ontario's health minister said the couple had been discovered dead.

Hopkinson noted that it was early in the police investigation.

"The circumstances of their death appear suspicious and we are treating it that way," Hopkinson said at a news conference held outside the couple's home. "Our investigators are inside investigating and taking apart the scene."

Hopkinson said police were called to the Shermans' home in an upscale neighbourhood of north Toronto just before noon on Friday in response to a "medical complaint."

He declined to say whether the bodies showed signs of trauma and did not provide details on the time or cause of death.

Hopkinson said the deaths are not currently being treated as homicides, adding that more investigation will be necessary.

"There may be suspicious circumstances. It's an investigative tool," he said. "Until we know exactly how they died, we treat it as suspicious. Once a determination has been made by the pathologist and the coroner, then we move forward from there."

Two high-profile Ontario politicians were among those who spoke out about the deaths.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins sent a tweet expressing shock at the death of his "dear friends," who he described as "wonderful human beings."

"I am beyond words right now," Hoskins wrote in his tweet. "Incredible philanthropists, great leaders in health care. A very, very sad day."

Ontario's minister of economic development also tweeted about the deaths.

"Deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman," tweeted Brad Duguid. "Philanthropists and entrepreneurs who made our province a better place to live."

Barry Sherman was the chairman of generic drugmaker Apotex, which he founded in 1974 with two employees. It went on to become the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company.

Along the way he amassed a vast fortune, which Canadian Business magazine estimated at $4.77 billion to make him the 15th richest Canadian, as well as lawsuits from family members who alleged they got cut out of a share of the company.

As a producer of more than 300 generic pharmaceutical products that exports to over 115 countries, Apotex has itself seen a fair number of litigation issues, as companies have pushed back on its efforts to sell cheaper no-name options.

One of the most high-profile of those clashes occurred when pharma giant Bristol-Myers Squibb sued Apotex in 2006 to try and stop it from selling the first generic form of the heart-disease treatment Plavix.

Today, the company has more than 10,000 people in research, development, manufacturing and distribution facilities world-wide, with more than 6,000 employees at its Canadian operations. The company's Canadian operations include manufacturing and research facilities concentrated in the Toronto area as well as in Winnipeg.

Filling more than 89 million prescriptions in a year, the privately held company says its worldwide sales exceed $2 billion a year.

Sherman has also been an active philanthropist, including donating $50 million to the United Jewish Appeal. He had also become an active fundraiser for the Liberal party in recent years, but was criticized for holding a pay-for-access fundraiser in August 2015 that included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while being registered as a lobbyist.

Sherman's wife, Honey, was a member of the board of the Baycrest Foundation and the York University Foundation. She also served on the boards of Mount Sinai's Women's Auxiliary, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the International American Joint Distribution Committee.

Apotex called news of the deaths "tragic."

"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," the company said in a statement.

The address where the bodies were found was recently listed for sale for $6.9 million. Neighbours confirmed that the property was the couple's home.

— with files from Ian Bickis in Calgary.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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