Canadian billionaire Bernard “Barry” Sherman and his wife Honey were found dead in their home Friday.
Police say the deaths were suspicious but haven’t said much more than that.
The Shermans were known for their philanthropy and are survived by their four adult children.
WACTH: Barry and Honey Sherman found dead at north-end Toronto home
Sherman was born 1942 and went through the University of Toronto’s Engineering program and the later onto MIT for aeronautics.
It was during his university years he started in pharmaceuticals, working for his uncle Louis Winter, who owned Empire Laboratories, according to a profile in the Globe and Mail.
After Winter and his wife died, Sherman bought the company with a colleague – something he called a major risk at the time.
“It was a crazy thing to do. We almost went broke in the first few months,” Sherman told the Globe in 2007. “I’m an entrepreneur and one has to take risks to get ahead. I was lucky.”
He eventually sold the business and moved on to a new venture: Apotex Inc.
It started with two employees and gradually grew into the largest Canadian-owned pharmaceutical company.
Along the way Sherman amassed a vast fortune, recently estimated by Canadian Business magazine at $4.77 billion, making him the 15th richest person in the country.
He also faced legal action, from family members who alleged they had been cut out of the company over the years.
Now, Apotex produces more than 300 generic pharmaceutical products.
In a brief statement released Friday afternoon, Apotex called news of the deaths “tragic” and said “Barry and Honey Sherman have unexpectedly passed away.”
“All of us at Apotex are deeply shocked and saddened by this news and our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time,” the statement said.
Sherman’s wife, Honey, was a member of the board of the Baycrest Foundation and the York University Foundation. She also served on the boards of Mount Sinai’s Women’s Auxiliary, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the International American Joint Distribution Committee.
As a philanthropist, the Sherman’s donated millions of dollars to Toronto-based organizations.
They were active members of the Jewish community, and had donated roughly $50 million to the United Jewish Appeal.
In a statement on the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto’s website, the Shermans expressed their particular “obligation” to support the Jewish community.
“We are fortunate in being able to contribute,” the couple is quoted as saying. “You can’t take it with you, so the best alternative is to put it to good use while you are here.”
In a statement from Mount Sinai Hospital, the couple was praised for their “philanthropic leadership.”
“Their visible leadership on our hospital and foundation board of directors was infused with warmth, passion and a fierce intelligence. The impact of their generosity is felt in every area of the hospital,” Brent Belzberg, Chair of the Board, Sinai Health System, wrote in a statement.
“Their loss will be felt by our organization, our community, and our country.”
Sherman had also become an active fundraiser for the Liberal party in recent years, but was criticized for holding a pay-for-access fundraiser in August 2015 that included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau while being registered as a lobbyist.
Ontairo’s health minister said he was “beyond words” at the news of their deaths.
“I am beyond words right now. My dear friends Barry and Honey Sherman have been found dead. Wonderful human beings, incredible philanthropists, great leaders in health care. A very, very sad day. Barry, Honey, rest in peace,” he wrote on Twitter.
The couple died in their home, which was recently put up for sale with a price tag of nearly seven million dollars.
Police say there was no sign of forced entry.
Anyone with information is being asked to call police at 416-808-3300.
*with files from Global News and the Canadian Press