Toronto Buzzes With Talk of Billionaire Couple’s Suspicious Death


The couple was known for two contradictory things: making a fortune in the tough, litigious business of generic drugs, and giving a lot of it away to charity.

Early local news reports said the police were considering the deaths a murder-suicide, which friends said amounted to character assassination.

“There is absolutely zero debate in my mind, this was a double homicide,” said Linda Frum, a senator in the Canadian Parliament and a close, longtime friend of the couple.

She added: “This idea that Barry would ever harm Honey — he adored her. That’s impossible. He was a gentle, good man.”

The couple’s four children issued a statement slamming the police for leaking the murder-suicide theory and urging them to “conduct a thorough, intensive criminal investigation.”

Fred Waks, a real estate developer and close friend of the Shermans, said: “Barry was involved in big pharmacy on a worldwide basis. His lawsuits pertained to billions of dollars, back and forth. When you are dealing with the size of that industry and the amounts we are talking about, you make enemies.”

Photo

The Shermans in 2010.

Credit
Janice Pinto/The Globe and Mail, via Rueters

He added, “And you make enemies on a global basis.”

Last month, Canadian Business Magazine listed Mr. Sherman, whose name was Bernard but who was known as Barry, as the country’s 15th-richest person, with a personal net worth of 4.77 billion Canadian dollars.

He had a reputation as a shrewd, combative businessman, a brilliant scientist and a consummate workaholic who, at 75, still logged long hours in the office most days. He appeared to have no intention of ever stepping down as chairman of Apotex, the company he co-founded in 1974 and built up from just two employees to more than 6,000 in Canada alone.

The biggest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company in the country, Apotex now makes more than 2 billion Canadian dollars in annual sales, according to the company’s website.

Mr. Sherman was often in the news for his company’s voluminous lawsuits, aimed at opening the market to his generic versions of drugs, and its “at-risk launches” of generic drugs, flooding the market before litigation concluded.

His personal life was also dragged into court, by a lingering lawsuit originally filed in 2006 by Mr. Sherman’s cousins, who claimed they were owed part of the company’s assets. An Ontario court threw out the case this September as “wishful thinking, and beyond fanciful.”

Friends described Mrs. Sherman, 70, as bubbly and vivacious. Born in a displaced persons camp to two Holocaust victims, she was passionate about Holocaust education and spent much of her time volunteering, sitting on numerous boards, including a university and a hospital.

Though fabulously wealthy, the couple didn’t live like billionaires. They flew economy. Mr. Sherman drove a beat-up old car. And although they owned a grand house with a tennis court and two pools, it was modest compared with many even on their tree-lined, country-style street in the city’s north end.

The one way they showed their wealth was philanthropy.

The couple gave hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals, universities, political parties and charities. They were fixtures of Toronto’s fund-raising event circuit. Mrs. Sherman in particular was known as someone who didn’t like to say no to a call for help.

Just two months ago, Mayor John Tory of Toronto saw the couple at a ground breaking for a new Jewish community center the Shermans were instrumental in funding. He asked Mr. Sherman if he had plans to retire.

“He said not really. He just loved his work,” said Mr. Tory, who found himself over the weekend at the opening of the city’s long-awaited subway extension, fielding media calls about the Shermans.

The couple showed all the signs of an expanding, invested life. They were building a new home, helping plan their daughter’s wedding and celebrating the arrival of a third grandchild.

They had booked a long vacation north of Miami Beach, Fla., where they owned a condominium and visited regularly. Mrs. Sherman, who was set to leave on Monday, sent out email to friends last Monday asking for dates to golf and dinner for the couple while they were there.

It was signed off: “Looking forward to hearing back asap. xoxo Honey.”

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