Most Canadians have never heard of Pierre-Karl Péladeau, but in Quebec, he is fast becoming a business superstar. P.K., as he is affectionately referred to (no, not Suban,) he is the son and heir of the media empire created by the late Pierre Péladeau who was Quebec's most powerful media tycoon of the last century. Péladeau senior was quite the character, building up his empire from scratch, living out the proverbial rags to riches story.
His first success was the creation of the Montreal daily newspaper , LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL, which he launched during a strike at the major competition -LA PRESSE. (ironically- Le Journal de Montreal is presently on strike itself, but more later.)
A colourfully ruthless and contradictory character, Péladeau became a legend in his own time. A fervent separatist, (for a while anyway) he happily accepted entry into the Order of Canada in 1987. Racked by alcoholism and manic depression, his personal and family relationships suffered badly. His cockiness led him to shoot off his mouth all too often and he had a propensity to make injudicious remarks (which he was usually forgiven for, by the media)
His rocky personal life, no doubt contributed to his daughter Anne-Marie's descent into hell, a life-long drug-addicted fog that left her estranged from the family. She has lived the past two decades in and out of rehab, only to return to the streets each time to a life of more drugs and petty crime to finance her addiction. Effectively cut off from the family, she sued her brothers for 21 million in inheritance and reached an undisclosed settlement.
She earned her fifteen minutes of fame when she was filmed (ironically by a Péladeau owned TV station) by a news helicopter, getting beaten up while resisting arrest by police, who had been chasing her car after she had fled the scene of an armed robbery. You can see a video of the incident, HERE.
When Pierre Péladeau died, he left assets that generated revenues of almost seven billion dollars a year, but it wasn't a particularly rosy picture, as the printing business was going downhill with the emergence of the electronic world.
Pierre-Karl's first years at the helm of the business were not pretty. He was forced to declare bankruptcy in his premier asset, Quebecor World and it seemed for a while that the younger Péladeau may not have had the right stuff.
But like a true media baron he rebounded spectacularly and today runs a diversified empire that includes jewels like Sun Media (newspapers,) Videotron (Cable TV, Internet, Wireless) and TVA (television stations, film production,).
Pierre has developed a ruthlessness that would certainly make daddy proud.
He locked out writers at his two flagship newspapers LE JOURNAL DE MONTREAL and the JOURNAL DE QUEBEC in a pay dispute that has now been going on for over a year. The usually savvy writers badly underestimated the determination of Péladeau to not only win but to destroy their union as well.
The newspapers haven't stopped publishing, in fact they are thriving, using a loophole in Quebec's anti-scab law which forbids replacement workers from entering the company premises to take over the work previously provided by strikers.
Laughably, the scabs send in their material to editors via the Internet, a practice that was upheld as legal on several occasions in Quebec court, the law clearly out of date, in an electronic age. The striking workers have launched an alternative news website called Rue Frontenac, but for them, the writing is on the wall and they may soon fade into the sunset, reminiscent of the "Gars de Lapalme."
With success and confidence Péladeau is becoming more politically assertive and has openly called into question several Quebec sacred cows, including unionism.
In an open letter that he published in his newspaper he attacked the lofty and protected position of Quebec's labour movement.
"...we need to question the imbalance all the legislation of the past decades has created between employers and unions, an imbalance which has and continues more than ever to handicap Quebec businesses in the context of an increasingly globalized economy." Read more translated English excerpts from Macleans or the complete original French version HERE.Péladeau has shocked Canada's staid and established media by proposing the creation of a FOX NEWS conservative-type of all-news channel, to be called SUN NEWS TV, to be launched January as an alternative source for news, to counter what he perceives as the liberal bent of the national media.
The project has come under a storm of criticism from defenders of the status quo, including Don
Newman, who attacked the concept as "The absolute last thing this country needs."
Should the project come off, it's no doubt that Péladeau will become a household name across Canada, similar to that of Rupert Murdoch and that he will use the platform to raise his profile à la Donald Trump.
Péladeau is carefully cultivating an image of an arrogant conservative business tycoon, complete with a trophy partner on his arm, Julie Snyder, a Quebec television personality. As his image expands, so do the opportunities. Reputation and myth go a long way to creating credibility and for a Quebecker, conquering Bay street as well as the business world is of primordial importance.
With the field clear of contenders, Péladeau is making a run to becoming Canada's most powerful and important media mogul. He just might do it.