Passing of Mr. Pierre Arbour: Quebec loses a philanthropist
Pierre Arbour was a remarkable man: full of life, ideas and generosity. He was born in south Shawinigan in 1935 and during
his teenage years was sent to College de Montreal by his parents, where he stayed throughout high school. In 1956, he
graduated from Université de Montreal (in Philosophy), and subsequently became one of the first French Canadians to attend McGill University, where he learned to speak English and went on to graduate with a bachelors in commerce in 1959. He began his career as an insurance broker for London Life, which would later become Industrial Life in 1960. In 1962, he then joined Morgan, Ostiguy and Hudon Ltd as a financial analyst. But Pierre’s professional career was taking off during a period of great change within the province of Quebec, and it was following a meeting with Jacques Parizeau, that Pierre would in 1966 go on to join the Caisse de depot et placements du Quebec (CDPQ), a newly created financial institution started by Jean Lesage’s Liberal Government. Pierre then became the founding equity manager of the common shares portfolio. During his time at the Caisse, Pierre was elected to the boards of the following companies: M Loeb, Provigo, Horne & Pitfield, National Drug and Chemical Ltd, la Place Desjardins, Societe d’Investissement Industriel (SDI) du Quebec.
Following the death of his mentor Claude Prieur, ex CEO of the Caisse, Pierre left the Caisse in 1980, and with a $30,000 invested founded Alkebec Inc, a firm specialising in oil & gas exploration and tax shelters. In 1984, Alkebec Inc. became a venture capital firm, which would go on to make investments in several growing companies, both public and private, across Canada.
Between 1979 and 1993, Pierre was also president and CEO of Monterey Capital Inc, a publicly owned company specialising in the distribution of industrial equipment.
Between 1980 and 1989, Pierre was also a board member of Consolidated Bathurst Inc., a Canadian pulp and paper company which was sold to Stone Container for $2.6Bn in 1989. In 1993, Pierre published “Quebec Inc, and the Temptation of State Nationalism” in which Pierre wrote about his experiences at La Caisse, exposing instances of alleged political and nationalistic cross contaminations in the investment decision-making process.
In 2005, Pierre would take the majority of his accumulated capital to start, “La Fondation Universitaire Pierre Arbour”, now “Fondation Arbour”, which offers scholarships of excellence to masters and PhD level students studying at Universite de
Montreal, Université du Quebec a Montreal, McGill, Polytechnique, HEC, ETS, Concordia and Universite de Sherbrooke, in fields that Pierre thought would be conducive to economic growth and development of the province of Quebec, namely computer sciences, engineering and business administration. 12 years after its creation, the Foundation Arbour has grown its assets under management from $9.0 million to $16.0m, and has since its inception awarded 230 scholarships worth $3.2m dollars.
Pierre’s gift not only reflected his fundamental belief in the value of education and in assisting students to achieve their goals, but also his vision for Quebec society as a whole. Pierre’s vision always put him one step ahead: he understood the skills that would be necessary for a successful Quebec in the context of an increasingly globalised economy.
Whether by way of his pioneering activities at La Caisse or via the creation of the Foundation Arbour, Pierre’s legacy will be one of strengthening Quebec society and its economic growth by encouraging education and entrepreneurship. He knew how to
use his own success for the benefit of others. Pierre Arbour was thus one of these extraordinary men who have the capacity to change the lives and destinies of those who had the good fortune of crossing their path.