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Péladeau family squares off in court over Quebecor shares

Quebecor President and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau was in court on Tuesday.
Quebecor President and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau was in court on Tuesday. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

A judge urged members of Quebec’s Péladeau family Tuesday not to air their dirty laundry in public in a quarrel over Quebecor shares that dates back nearly 20 years.

But despite Quebec Superior Court Justice Gérard Dugré’s admonition, a deal to settle the dispute without going to trial fell through when Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau balked at covering his sister’s lawyer’s fees.

Anne-Marie Péladeau was in court asking her brothers Pierre Karl and Erik to respect a 2000 agreement to buy back her interests in Péladeau Investments Inc., which controls the Quebec media and telecommunications conglomerate.

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“Clearly, you heard that there was a dispute that bothered my brother, and it was paying the lawyers,” Anne-Marie Péladeau said outside the courtroom. “He was ready to negotiate, but he doesn’t want to pay the lawyers.”

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With no agreement reached, Pierre Karl Péladeau took the stand at the Montreal courthouse. He testified, among other things, about his sister’s troubled past, to the point that she became so upset she left the courtroom.

Dugre had urged the parties to avoid such a scene.

“The two brothers and the younger sister have to sit in a cubicle and think very hard about what their father (Quebecor founder Pierre Péladeau) would do in such a situation,” the judge said in the morning.

“It’s the best solution.”

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Anne-Marie Péladeau was initially seeking $88 million, the estimated current value of the amount contained in the 2000 agreement reached by the parties.

So far $12 million has been paid into a trust, because the Quebecor CEO’s sister is under the supervision of legal guardians. Her lawyer, Philippe Trudel, said Tuesday his client would be ready to settle the dispute for an additional $38.5 million instead of the $88 million total initially sought.

The money would go into the trust to ensure Anne-Marie Péladeau’s daughter, a 34-year-old nurse, can also benefit from the family fortune.

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Throughout the day, Pierre Karl Péladeau never spoke to his sister.

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In the afternoon, a deal seemed near, but defence lawyer François Fontaine explained that discussions broke off on the question of the fees to be paid to Anne-Marie Péladeau’s lawyers, leaving the judge perplexed.

“I’ve never seen a case like this in my career,” Dugré remarked before adjourning for the day, asking once again that the two sides try to settle.

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The court heard that her lawyers would be entitled to 15 per cent of the payment, or a little more than $7.5 million.

Trudel had proposed the Péladeau brothers could pay in two instalments, $15 million now and the balance in two years. The defence proposed that the deadline for payment extend to Dec. 31, 2022.

The judge reminded the two parties that a 2015 Court of Appeal ruling served a “very harsh warning” that the brothers had to find common ground with their sister — which never happened, leading to the filing of the lawsuit in 2016.

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He noted that litigation can often take several years, and the outcome seldom pleases both sides. “If you want to settle this issue for family peace, you have to be ready to compromise,” Dugre said. “You have to be in concession mode.

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“Maybe you’re not that far away.”

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Trudel had said he was ready to make a “final effort with Mr. Péladeau” so that his client could “enjoy her inheritance while she could.”