In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, The CJN presents 40 profiles of some of the most prominent Jewish Canadians throughout our history.
Bernard (Barry) Sherman, born in 1942, parlayed an investment in an uncle’s pharmaceutical company 50 years ago into an international pharmaceutical manufacturing giant, which has earned the Torontonian fifth place in Canadian Business magazine’s 2016 ranking of Canada’s wealthiest individuals.
Sherman, the CEO and chairman of Apotex, the biggest pharmaceutical company in Canada, showed promise at an early age. At 16, he was the youngest student to join the engineering science program at University of Toronto. He received highest honours in his engineering science graduation, and the Governor General’s award for his thesis. He later earned his doctoral degree at MIT.
While studying, Sherman used to work for Louis Lloyd Winter, his uncle, at Empire Labs, Canada’s largest wholly owned pharmaceutical company at that time. When his uncle would travel, Sherman often helped watch over the operations. In the summer of 1967, directly after completing his Ph.D. in astrophysics, Sherman purchased the Empire Group of Companies from the estate of Louis and Beverley Winter, who had both died in 1965.
In 1972, Sherman sold out Empire, and started Apotex. Today, it is one of the top 15 generic pharmaceutical companies in the world. The company is responsible for selling 89 million prescription drugs every year across 115 countries worldwide. The company employs more than 10,000 people, manufactures more than 300 generic drugs, and is in the process of developing hundreds more.
Sherman also became involved in Nutraceutical manufacturing and other businesses, founding NION (National Institute of Nutrition), which he later sold.
On July 18, 2008, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, announced its proposed acquisition of Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc. – in which Sherman was also a shareholder – for US $7.46 billion plus the assumption of net debt of approximately $1.5 billion.
Over the years, Sherman has demonstrated that community is as important to him as success in business. He has been a community leader and shared his wealth generously with the community. He is a major contributor to Jewish organizations, including the UJA – to which he has donated a recorded amount of $50 million – and the Joint Distribution Committee.
He and his wife, Honey, have donated millions to medical research and health-care facilities – including an important addition to Baycrest – and community centres in Toronto and elsewhere.
Sherman also gives through his company, Apotex, and the Apotex Foundation. “One of our major community contributions are to the United Way,” Sherman states on the Apotex website. “We are proud to be recognized as the No. 1 pharmaceutical company in Canada for total corporate donations, being one of the few companies in the country to raise over $1 million.”
The Apotex Foundation is a privately held charitable organization, which has donated more than $50 million in medicines over the last 10 years. Critical medicines have been shipped to every disaster zone around the globe to provide assistance to humans in need.
“Our specific priority at Apotex is to work collaboratively with members of the pharmacy profession and to provide financial support for a wide variety of professional programs and research initiatives on both national and regional levels,” Sherman states on the website. “Ultimately, these activities will benefit not only the patient but also the pharmacist in the hospital, community or university environments.”