Canada police probe 'suspicious' deaths of billionaire, wife

Honey and Barry Sherman are shown at the annual United Jewish Appeal (UJA) fundraiser in Toronto, Canada, in 2010.
Honey and Barry Sherman are shown at the annual United Jewish Appeal (UJA) fundraiser in Toronto, Canada, in 2010.PHOTO: REUTERS

TORONTO (BLOOMBERG) – Tributes poured in from prominent Canadians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, after the sudden deaths of billionaire pharmaceutical executive Bernard “Barry” Sherman and his wife shocked the country’s corporate and political worlds.

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

Authorities have not said whether they are treating the deaths as a homicide, and autopsy results are expected on Saturday afternoon.

“Our condolences to their family & friends, and to everyone touched by their vision & spirit,” Trudeau wrote on Twitter.

Apotex, in a statement on Saturday, hailed its growth from a two-person firm Sherman started 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 organisation – 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.” 

AUTOPSIES CONDUCTED 

The deaths are being investigated. 

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

Results of a postmortem examination will indicate whether the Shermans’ deaths will be investigated as a homicide, Hopkinson said. 

“Until we know what the postmortem says, there can’t be a determination of cause of death.”

The Toronto Police homicide unit is collaborating with the investigation in case it ultimately takes over, he said.

Sherman was chairman of the closely held Canadian generic-drug maker and formerly chair of Cangene, a Canadian biotechnology firm. He was ranked recently by Forbes as Canada’s 12th-richest person with a net worth of about C$3 billion (S$3.1 billion).

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

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.

“I am beyond words right now,” Hoskins wrote.