Bernard Charles Sherman
February 25, 1942
|Died||December 13, 2017 (aged 75) |
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Body discovered||December 15, 2017 |
|Alma mater||University of Toronto (BASc)|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (PhD)
|Known for||Pharmaceutical industry|
|Net worth||US$3.2 billion|
|Title||Chairman and CEO of Apotex|
|Family||Louis Lloyd Winter (uncle)|
Bernard Charles "Barry" Sherman,  (February 25, 1942 - December 13, 2017) was a Canadian businessman and philanthropist who was chairman and CEO of Apotex Inc. With an estimated net worth of US$3.2 billion at the time of his death, according to Forbes, Sherman was the 12th-wealthiest Canadian. Another publication, Canadian Business, stated his fortune at CAN$4.77 billion, ranking him the 15th richest in Canada.
Sherman, a University of Toronto graduate with a doctorate in engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, got his start in the pharmaceutical business in the 1960s, when the estate of his uncle Louis Lloyd Winter let him run Empire Laboratories, the late uncle's drug company. This eventually led Sherman to form Apotex, where he earned a reputation among both competitors and government regulators for extreme combativeness, often including litigation. His four cousins, who were supposed to have received 5 percent stakes in Empire, later sued Sherman unsuccessfully over his sale of Empire.
In 1971 he married his wife Honey, who would later rise to prominence in Canadian philanthropy, serving on the boards of several prominent charities. The two were found slain in their home late in 2017 by unknown assailants, according to the Toronto Police, who are investigating the case. In April 2019, the police said they had a "working theory" of the case and an "idea of what happened", and as of April 2020 the investigation was "active and ongoing".
Sherman was born into a Jewish family in Toronto to Herbert Dick "Hyman" Sherman (1906-1952), a business partner for a zipper company, and Sara "Sarah" Sherman (née Winter; 1910-1971), an occupational therapist after her husband's death. His grandparents from both sides had fled persecution of Jews in Russia and Poland. His father died from a heart attack when Bernard was 10. He won a national physics contest while attending the Forest Hill Collegiate Institute and graduated with top marks. In 1958, he entered the University of Toronto's engineering science program at age 16, believed to be the youngest to do so until Madeline Zhang in 2016 who entered at the age of 14. He wrote later that he chose that program specifically because it was reputedly the university's hardest. The same year, he signed up for a Canadian Army organized student militia.
During summers, he worked for his uncle Louis Lloyd Winter, at his Empire Laboratories, then Canada's largest wholly owned pharmaceutical company, as a driver, primarily picking up urine samples for pregnancy tests. When his uncle would travel, Sherman often helped watch over the operations.
He graduated[when?] from the University of Toronto with the highest honours in his class, and received the university's Governor General's Award for his thesis. He enrolled[when?] at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to begin doctoral studies in engineering. In 1967, he completed a PhD in astrophysics from MIT.
Sherman later recalled that his interest in business as career was piqued when he was 10. One day his father brought him to work at his zipper factory in downtown Toronto, and gave Sherman some zippers to count and box. He later wrote that his father was surprised at how well he did, filling "more than would have been done in the same time by any of his paid staff". He also recalled feeling insulted when his father counted them.
In 1967, after completing his PhD, Sherman purchased the Empire Group of Companies from the executor of the estate of his aunt and uncle, Beverley and Louis Lloyd Winter, as both had died 17 days apart in November 1965, leaving four orphaned young children: Paul Timothy, Jeffrey Andrew, Kerry Joel Dexter, and Dana Charles. Empire had been the first to secure the compulsory rights to manufacture Hoffmann-La Roche's Valium (diazepam) in Canada, and was one of Canada's largest manufacturers of Pfizer's Vibramycin (doxycycline), Upjohn Company's Orinase (tolbutamide), and the dietary sweetener saccharin. The estate allowed Sherman to buy a majority stake in the company and run it only on the condition that the four Winter children be allowed to work for the company when they reached 21, with the option to buy 5 percent stakes in the company two years later, with 15-year royalties on four of its patented products. The agreement would be voided if Sherman sold Empire.
That voiding happened in 1969. Sherman worked out a deal to swap shares with Empire's largest customer that put it in control of the company. In 1970 he invested in New York's Barr Laboratories with US-based partners, became its largest shareholder and served as Barr's president. He would eventually control a third of Barr's stock. Barr won the first rights to manufacture generic versions of Eli Lilly's Prozac. Today, Barr Laboratories' is a part of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, the world's largest generic drug maker, following Teva's acquisition of Barr Pharmaceuticals in 2008.
In January 1972, Sherman and Ulster Limited sold Empire Laboratories to the Quebec-based Canadian operations of publicly traded International Chemical and Nuclear (ICN) of California, for 57,000 shares (Valeant Pharmaceuticals). This transaction voided his arrangement with the Winter estate. A year later, Sherman started Apotex with a few former Empire Laboratories' personnel; it was incorporated in 1974. This privately owned and Sherman-controlled company claims to be Canada's largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical manufacturer. Sherman also became involved in Nutraceutical manufacturing and other businesses, founding NION (National Institute of Nutrition) with Richard Kashenberg. He later sold the company to Schiff and continued on to Apotex.
By 2016, Apotex employed over 10,000 people as one of Canada's largest drug manufacturers, with over 260 products selling in over 115 countries. Revenues were about $1.5 billion annually.
Sherman also personally invested in other, non-pharmaceutical businesses. Often these had dubious prospects, and turned out to be fraudulent schemes or run by people later accused of fraud. Sherman's associates felt he was often too generous and trusting with them, failing to do proper due diligence. "He always saw the best in people," an unidentified longtime friend told MacLean's. "Which wasn't a great thing all the time."
A yacht-chartering company he put money into turned out to be a fraud that had never bought any yachts. Later he bought a majority stake in a company that sold a nutritional supplement marketed by American Kevin Trudeau. In 1996, when U.S. regulators began investigating the fraud claims that have since led to Trudeau's imprisonment, Sherman sold half his stake to the Apotex Foundation.
For 15 years Sherman also partnered with Frank D'Angelo, a fruit-juice maker who was trying to branch out into other businesses. The two produced the Cheetah Power Surge energy drink and started Steelback Brewery; when D'Angelo Brands went bankrupt in 2007, Sherman lost CAN$100 million. He put his son in charge of the company, and continued backing D'Angelo's next venture, filmmaking, even after D'Angelo was arrested on sexual assault and obstruction of justice charges, later dropped, in 2009. Sherman's money financed all eight films D'Angelo made through 2013.
In the late 2010s, Sherman worked with another man later convicted of fraud, Shaun Rootenberg. The two had been introduced by a mutual friend, Myron Gottlieb, cofounder of Cineplex Odeon, who had met Rootenberg in prison following his conviction for fraud in the collapse of Livent. Rootenberg persuaded Sherman to invest in his development of an online trivia game; later Sherman filed suit against Rootenberg alleging the latter had simply pocketed the money.
Sherman married Honey Reich in 1971, a fellow University of Toronto graduate born in Austria, to Polish Jewish, Holocaust survivors. They had four children, a son, Jonathon, and three daughters, Lauren, Alexandra and Kaelen.
While Sherman socialized regularly with Honey, he was known to his friends and family as a workaholic. At the social events they attended, she was more outgoing, while he often kept to himself and discussed mainly his businesses. The Sherman family frequented a ski club on winter weekends, but while Honey and the children availed themselves of the trails, Barry remained in the lodge poring over documents. Similarly, he did not play golf and would spend vacations, where others went to do so, reviewing business material.
Even as his fortune grew, he drove his cars until they reached an advanced state of disrepair; a friend worried that one, a Ford Mustang, was so decrepit it was leaking carbon monoxide into the passenger compartment. For his 50th birthday, Honey gave him a red sports car with a bow on it in front of assembled guests. He asked her to take it back, and she did.
Sherman, with his wife, donated a record $50 million to the United Jewish Appeal, and other Jewish charities, despite Sherman himself being an atheist. They provided funds to build a major addition to the geriatric Baycrest centre, and to other Toronto-area community centres in Ontario. The couple were also major donors to the United Way. As well, the Apotex Foundation had sent over $50 million worth of medicine to disaster zones since 2007. Sherman personally often loaned money to Apotex employees who needed help.
After his death, MacLean's found that Sherman himself, through one of the many companies he controlled, had made large donations to several of the foundations he had set up in his or Apotex's name. Under Canadian tax law, this entitled him to an equivalent tax credit. The foundations were then allowed to loan him back money, and did, loaning him almost the total of the $6 million he gave, an unusually high amount for Canadian private foundations that loaned out their money. The leader of a private charity watchdog group said Sherman was "using his foundations as a piggy bank" and called on Parliament to change the law.
Sherman had a mixed reputation, or what the National Post called "Two Legacies". Toronto Mayor John Tory said "Barry and Honey were kind, good people" and Sherman was widely praised for his philanthropic giving. On the other hand, Morton Shulman, a physician and former member of the Ontario Parliament from a similar background as Sherman who late in his life fought him over drug development, called him "the only person I have ever met with no redeeming features whatsoever". A Bloomberg writer reporting on Sherman's death said that some rival generic drug company executives used "unprintable" language to describe him.
Sherman was called "a deplorable human being" in reference to his business practices, by University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran who claimed that he gouged Canadians with high drug prices: "Canadians pay more for generic drugs than almost every other country. He sought to manipulate our system to enrich himself and impoverish Canadian patients who used his drugs", he said. He accused Sherman of crossing intellectual property rights ethical lines to "fight as many as 100 battles at a time in court to challenge drug patents and make way for Apotex's generic prescriptions" with little end benefit to consumers. By contrast, Sherman saw Apotex as a force for good. "If we're thieves, we're Robin Hoods", he said.
As told in Jeffrey Robinson's 2001 book "Prescription Games: Money, Ego and Power Inside the Pharmaceutical Industry", Sherman himself acknowledged the long-running conflict between Apotex and the major pharmaceutical companies over drug patents, saying "The branded drug companies hate us. They have private investigators on us all the time. The thought once came to my mind: why didn't they just hire someone to knock me off?" Reportedly private investigators working for the German company Bayer AG, one of the world's largest drug companies, considered planting illegal drugs in Sherman's car during an operation to lure Apotex employees into informing on whether the Canadian company was knowingly infringing Bayer's patents.
Apotex was also much more likely than other Canadian companies to respond to adverse regulatory decisions by suing the government agencies involved. At the time of Sherman's death, his company had filed an estimated 1,200 cases against the government in Federal Court; a spokesman for Health Canada, named as a defendant in dozens of Apotex's suits, complained that the company's litigiousness had cost Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees. "It was intimidating to come back from lunch and find an urgent memo on your desk saying you've got to get over to Federal Court because Sherman was at it again," recalled Michele Brill-Edwards, former Healthcan head of drug regulation. "He quickly demonstrated that in fact you can bully the government and you can intimidate." One of Apotex's lawsuits, over the company's application to make a generic version of the antidepressant Trazodone, took 30 years until the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the government had mishandled it.
Sherman himself once told employees that Apotex was primarily a legal company that sold medications on the side. After his death, Maclean's wrote: "He was a billionaire driven to litigation less by money than something more primal: a sense of righteous certitude that propelled him to prevail at any cost."
Competitors and the government were not the only targets of Apotex and Sherman's litigation. In the 1990s, following an extension of patents that made generic drugs less profitable to produce, the company began exploring making branded drugs of its own. One of them was deferiprone, a potential treatment for the blood disorder thalassemia.
Trials were overseen by U of T hematologist Dr. Nancy Olivieri at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. By 1998 she had serious concerns as to whether the drug was effective or safe, and broke a confidentiality agreement with Apotex to publish them. The company responded by attempting to damage her reputation and sue her; U of T took the company's side rather than risk the loss of a $20 million donation for a planned research center and removed Olivireri from her position as head of a research program on hemoglobin disorders. Eventually she regained it after years of her own litigation; the incident helped inspire John le Carré's novel The Constant Gardener.
In 2011, the Winter children (his cousins) sued Sherman alleging he never paid royalties and equity in Apotex, contending Sherman had used the proceeds from the 1972 sale of their late father's business Empire to buy Apotex in 1973. The cousins sought a 20 percent interest in Apotex or damages of $1 billion. Sherman responded by withdrawing millions of dollars in financial assistance to his cousins. The cousins' contended that Sherman "had offered the financial assistance in the first place in order to make the cousins dependent on him, and to keep them from learning about their rights to the business", an allegation Sherman denied. In September 2017, an Ontario Superior Court justice ruled against the cousins, saying the case was "wishful thinking, and beyond fanciful." At the time of the judgement, a lawyer for the cousins said they would appeal, though no appeal occurred, and Sherman died a few months later.
In 1996, after the Shermans' North York home was completed following five years of construction, the couple was dissatisfied with the work done on it. In particular, they claimed that the garage, a structure with a tennis court on top and a basement lap pool and hot tub, was faulty; Barry called it a "disaster". He and his wife filed 12 separate suits against all the contractors; ultimately they would recover almost the entire estimated $2.3 million cost of building the house through favourable judgements.
A partial draft of his unpublished memoir, called Legacy of Thoughts, was submitted as part of Sherman's motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit brought by his orphaned cousins. He described the manuscript as his observations on philosophy, Canadian politics and the pharmaceutical industry. Sherman did not believe in God, free will, altruism or morality. "I find no inconsistency in holding intellectually that life has no meaning, while at the same time being highly motivated to survive and to achieve", he once said.
Sherman was also known for the vigor of his lobbying efforts. When Brian Mulroney's government passed a law in 1993 that extended patent protection for brand-name drug makers, Sherman complained that it would be destructive to smaller generic drugmakers and began supporting Jean Chrétien and the Liberal Party, who had promised to review the law if they took power. He also donated millions of dollars to the University of Toronto for a research center, contributions he withdrew when the letters they wrote to the government opposing the new regulations did not result in those regulations being withdrawn.
In 2006, still unsatisfied, Sherman supported the campaign of Joe Volpe to become Liberal leader. He and other Apotex executives gave $108,000 to Volpe's campaign, all giving the legal maximum of $5,400. This caused some controversy when some of those donations were found to have come from minor children of the executives, although ultimately Elections Canada ruled that no laws were broken.
At the time of his death, Sherman, legally registered as a lobbyist, was under investigation because of a fundraiser he had held for Justin Trudeau in April 2015, allegedly contrary to Canada's lobbying rules. Sherman filed a lawsuit in May 2016, attempting to quash the investigation before it was finished, a legally unprecedented move in Canadian history. "There is basis to conclude that Mr. Sherman is in breach of ... the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct as a consequence of his involvement in the organization of a fundraising event for the (Liberal Party)," according to Phil McIntosh, director of investigations at the Office of the Lobby Commissioner. If that had been proven, Sherman would have been banned from lobbying for five years.
In 2017, the Shermans decided to sell their longtime home on Old Colony Road in North York and move to a new one they were building in Forest Hill, closer to downtown Toronto, where they would have as neighbours many of the people they socialized and did business with. Honey, who according to Frank D'Angelo had initiated the move, had purchased a corner lot in November 2016; the Shermans planned to demolish the existing house on the site. Plans for a replacement on file with the city called for a 16,000-square-foot (1,500 m2) house with features such as a central swimming pool with 41-foot (12 m) retractable skylight and living quarters for staff. The 15 variances required, including the house's 47.6-metre (156 ft) depth, more than twice that allowed in the city's zoning, and a car stacker in the garage, were approved in June 2017.
Construction of the house, and Sherman's ultimately successful effort to recover legal fees from the Winters after their suit was decided in his favour, preoccupied the couple later in the year. They put the North York home on the market, asking almost $7 million, at the end of November, even though construction had not started on the Forest Hill house. On December 12, Honey missed a meeting of the Baycrest Centre Foundation board, without notifying them beforehand, which was unusual for her. Reached by email, she said she was "dealing with some stuff".
The next day the couple met at Apotex headquarters late in the afternoon, where they went over some design changes to the new house in Barry's office. Honey was planning to leave for a holiday vacation in Miami a few days later; Barry was to join her a week later. It was the last time they were seen alive.
Later that evening, after returning home, Sherman sent his Apotex staff a routine email about a drug the company was developing. He did not call anyone during that night, which they said was unusual because he frequently suffered from insomnia. The next day he did not show up at Apotex; again this was out of the ordinary for him.
The next morning, December 15, neither Barry nor Honey was expected to be at home in the morning. The cleaning staff had already let themselves in with a recently installed lockbox when a pair of real estate agents arrived around mid-morning with a couple interested in the property. After showing them around the main story, the agents took the couple downstairs to the lap pool and hot tub.
There, they discovered Barry and Honey's bodies on the floor next to the pool. Both of their necks were tied with leather belts to a metal railing slightly over a metre high around the pool. Barry was seated, his legs crossed, on the pool deck; Honey was on her side with a bruise on her face. Coats pulled down over their shoulders restraining their arms; they were facing away from the water and fully clothed.
On the second anniversary of the case, the Toronto Star reported that the positions the bodies were found in nearly matched those of two 1970s-era "junk" sculptures of human figures posed sitting on speakers in the basement. Barry's right leg was crossed over his left, just like one, however Honey's legs were not in front of her as those on the corresponding sculpture had been.
The Star also reported that Honey's cell phone was found in a bathroom that according to friends she never used, suggesting she might have gone there in an attempt to summon help but was overpowered in the process. Similarly, Barry's gloves, as well as paperwork related to an inspection of the house, were left on the floor just outside the garage door, on the way to the basement pool. A window had been left open to allow a recently painted room to air out, and a basement door was unlocked, as apparently the Shermans frequently left it. Someone who may have known this, as well as the interior layout of the house, may have been able to escape through a neighboring back yard after the crime, police said.
The police were called. The deaths were treated as "suspicious" and the Toronto Police Service Homicide Squad took the lead in the investigation, because it was "most experienced in dealing with sudden unexpected deaths". Post-mortem examinations showed the cause of both deaths was "ligature neck compression", which is ligature strangulation caused by binding or tying. Ligature strangulation is usually distinguished from hanging by the strangling force being something other than the person's own body weight.
Toronto Police Service had previously told the news media that there was no indication of forced entry into the Sherman home and that their investigation did not include a search for any suspects. Although there was no note left by the deceased, police sources told the Toronto Star on December 15 or 16, 2017, that they were "probing the possibility that they were a murder-suicide".
In response, friends noted that the house had nine entrances and both Barry and Honey would have been likely to let someone in who asked for help, no matter the time of day, even if they barely knew the person or they were a complete stranger. The Sherman children issued a statement urging the police to conduct a thorough criminal investigation and chastised the police for leaking a murder-suicide theory. They also contacted Toronto lawyer Brian Greenspan to retain a private investigator to look into the deaths. He hired Tom Klett, a retired Toronto Police detective who has worked in the homicide, drug, and intelligence bureaus. The family also hired Dr. David Chiasson, the retired chief forensic pathologist for Ontario, to conduct another autopsy.
The second autopsy established that the couple had been murdered.
In January 2018, the Toronto Star published an exclusive report based on anonymous sources from the family's investigation team who said that the deaths were murders: the couple was strangled by belts after their hands were tied. These investigators had not yet gained access to the Sherman home. "People providing information for this story are not identified as they were not authorized to discuss the case," according to the Star. When contacted by a reporter, a Toronto Police spokesman reiterated the position that they were treating the deaths as "suspicious". On January 26, Toronto Police advised the news media that their investigation concluded that the couple had been killed in a targeted attack. At the time, they would not discuss any possible suspects, but planned to interview everyone who had access to the home prior to the deaths via the lockbox that was previously installed by the real estate agent. The police investigation has encountered resistance at Apotex headquarters, with a police spokesman saying "Legal complexities in some executions have been challenging given the litigious nature of Barry Sherman's businesses, in particular the search and seizure of electronics in Barry Sherman's workspace at Apotex".
The police investigation was still continuing in September 2018 when detectives obtained seven search warrants in addition to the 21 previously obtained. Detective Dennis Yim told a court that "investigators are methodically reviewing material and pursuing different investigative avenues".
In late October 2018, lawyer Brian Greenspan announced that the family had offered a $10 million reward in the couple's homicide investigation for any information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of a suspect. At the same time, he complained about the police investigation, claiming that it had failed to collect important evidence. Police Chief Mark Saunders later told the news media that a forensic pathologist has been working on the case, in addition to over 50 officers, interviewing 200 witnesses and collecting over 2,000 hours of video surveillance from neighbouring homes. When asked if police would be willing to work with the independent experts to be convened by Greenspan, Saunders said he would if the group were to be accepted in a court proceeding.
By October 2018, police had obtained 37 warrants related to the investigation.
On April 25, 2019, the Toronto Police said they had a "working theory" of the case, and an "idea of what happened."
At the end of 2019, the private investigators working for the family closed their investigation. The following month, Star reporter Kevin Donovan, who had just published a book, The Billionaire Murders about the case, disclosed that investigators had revised their timeline of the case. While previous statements had suggested police believed the couple had been killed early on December 15, they now said the murders had occurred two days earlier, within hours of the Shermans returning home on the night of the 13th.
No suspects or persons of interest have as yet been publicly identified. That has not stopped speculation about who might have been responsible, particularly given Sherman's many business associates with criminal records and those who had been angered by his actions. He himself had acknowledged that an attempt could be made on his life. "For a thousand bucks paid to the right person, you can probably get someone killed", he told Jeffrey Robinson in an interview for his book in the late 1990s. "Perhaps I'm surprised that hasn't happened."
At the time of the homicides Sherman had just won a ruling that the Winters owed him $300,000 in legal fees, less than he had asked for, for their lawsuit, itself dismissed three months earlier. After telling Bloomberg that he'd been informed he was a "prime suspect" and consulting with his lawyer, Kerry Winter allowed that he had not only the motive to kill his cousin but the opportunity, since he was working at the time as a construction supervisor and could set his own hours. He admitted to The Fifth Estate that he had imagined killing Sherman but says that he did not, and was watching Peaky Blinders on Netflix, then attending a Cocaine Anonymous meeting that night.[a]
Also mentioned as possibly having a motive to kill Sherman is Frank D'Angelo, given the long history between the two and the latter man's checkered legal history. In his interview with Bloomberg, he said "The worst thing that could have happened to Frank D'Angelo is Barry dying" and expressed regret that he had not been able to save a man he regarded as a close friend. He believed that "somebody came to make Barry an offer he couldn't refuse, and he refused".
In June 2019, persons close to the Shermans said Barry had planned to give to charity or invest much of his fortune. Trustees for the Sherman family fought to keep details of the estate secret. In Canada, court documents and related proceedings--including files that deal with an estate after death--are public. An Ontario Superior Court judge applied a "protective order" to the file, but the Toronto Star, a newspaper and media company in Canada, appealed and won. The family appealed to the Supreme Court, but the Supreme Court upheld the unsealing.
On Friday, June 11, 2021, a challenge with the Supreme Court of Canada, by Kevin Donovan of the Toronto Star, resulted in an overturn of the Sherman estate sealing order that had been in place since 2018 in concern of the safety of the trustees of the estate.