Barry Sherman had big plans in the year leading up to his murder — make an enormous donation to charity, gift hundreds of millions of dollars to his wife, Honey, and expand Apotex.
Those plans, described to the Star in interviews by people close to the Sherman couple, had not been acted upon at the time of their murders.
Barry, 75, and Honey Sherman, 70, were found strangled in their home on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. Police are investigating the case as a “targeted” double homicide. A Toronto homicide detective on the case has said, in open court during a hearing where the Star was seeking information on the case, that police have a “theory” and an “idea of what happened” but will not say if they have a suspect or suspects.
It’s a baffling mystery for close friends of the couple. It is not unusual for these friends of many decades to catch themselves imagining the couple’s terrifying final minutes, or recalling the many hopes and plans Barry and Honey shared with them over coffee, dinner or a game of golf.
For the purpose of this story, sources have been granted confidentiality for several different reasons depending on the individual, including a fear for their personal safety, fear of economic reprisals, and a concern that by speaking publicly they will interfere with the police investigation, particularly if they are ever called to testify in a courtroom.
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Barry Sherman grew up in Toronto, the son of a man who ran a company that made zippers, and who died when Sherman was 10. Sherman’s mother returned to her job as an occupational therapist at Mount Sinai Hospital and took in boarders to make ends meet. By his early 20s, Sherman had amassed an impressive number of academic credentials, but had given up a plan to work at NASA in favour of conquering the world of generic drugs.
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Sherman was 30 years old when he founded Apotex in 1974, and grew it into a Canadian manufacturing powerhouse with 11,000 employees, the majority of them based in Ontario.
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At the time of his death in late 2017, his wealth was estimated by Bloomberg Billionaires Index at $ 4.7 billion (CDN), making him one of Canada’s richest individuals. The exact nature of his holdings, other than the privately held Apotex, is unknown. Recently, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered the sealed file containing his will and documents detailing the disposition of his estate made public. That order is on hold pending a challenge by the Sherman children to the Supreme Court of Canada.
When asked about his passions in life, Sherman invariably gave the same answer.
“I work,” Sherman said to one acquaintance during a chat at Oakdale Golf and Country Club a few years ago. “And I like to give away money.”
While he had been generous to his children and relatives, he told his friends he did not want them to inherit all of his wealth. “It was just too much,” said one friend. “He never intended the children to have all of that money.”
He told people he had three specific plans for his money.
One of Sherman’s ideas was to make a major donation to charity while still alive. He had discussions about this with at least three people close to him in the last year of his life.
“Who really needs this amount of money?” he said to one person he was close with. Another recalled, “(Sherman) certainly told me that he intended to give away the bulk of his wealth to charity.” Sherman told these people that while he intended to make a major donation he wanted to assure that enough was set aside to provide for his children.
He told people he was inspired by Warren Buffett, the wealthy American businessman who with Bill and Melinda Gates created the “Giving Pledge” — an initiative where extremely wealthy people agree to gift the majority of their fortune to good works in their lifetime.
Sherman had already given a great deal of money — published reports, press releases and financial records indicate the Shermans have, over the past 20 years, given in excess of $ 100 million to to causes that include the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto, the University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital, Baycrest Health Sciences and scores of smaller charities.
Sherman often spoke publicly about the importance of charity. In a video recorded two months before the murders, and released posthumously, Barry and Honey Sherman spoke at a United Jewish Appeal (UJA) event where Honey was receiving an award on how charity was important to them and why they donated so much.
“I don’t think any person can be a happy person if he is successful in life and doesn’t give back to the communities,” Sherman says in the video, recorded Oct. 11, 2017. He said donating money is, for him, “a source of great satisfaction.”
People close to him, who had heard his plans to make additional major gifts, have been surprised to hear his will does not specifically identify donations.
While the Sherman estate is under court seal, sources have told the Star that nothing in the will indicates his stated wishes to leave money to charity. The will, sources say, establishes a “living trust” for Honey Sherman should Barry predecease her. Following Honey’s death, Barry’s will instructs the estate to be divided among his four children, with the trustees of his estate given discretion to provide money to extended family.
One close friend told the Star, “Barry did not think he was ever going to die. He probably figured he would get around to leaving those instructions one day, but was not in a hurry.”
Millions for Honey
One of the idiosyncrasies of the Sherman relationship was that Honey had to ask for money to make big purchases. Barry controlled the family purse-strings. The couple were both notoriously frugal when it came to many of their possessions, including cars. Honey drove a 10-year-old Lexus Hybrid SUV; Barry drove a 1999 Mustang GT convertible.
A sore point between Honey and Barry was that while their four children had been gifted money (different amounts for different children) over the years, Honey had not.
“Honey would always say, Barry never gives me any money,” said one of Honey’s closest friends. Another said, “Honey really wanted her own money.”
For smaller items, such as a $ 5,000 repair job to her Lexus after hitting a deer in 2017, Honey used a credit card linked to Barry’s account. Barry also kept a stash of $ 100 bills in a drawer in their home office that Honey had access to. But for big-ticket items, she told her close friends she had to ask Barry.
That was all about to change, according to people close to Barry and Honey. Barry was contemplating making a major gift to Honey that she could spend as she pleased.
The amount was to be between $ 100 million and $ 500 million, according to friends who say they heard this from Honey. One use for the funds, friends say, would be for the numerous real-estate ventures Honey had on the go with her sister Mary Shechtman, who was also her closest friend and who acted as a sort of consultant to Honey on real-estate issues.
Among the projects was the construction of a mansion in Forest Hill that would be Barry and Honey’s home, with an estimated cost (land and construction) of $ 30 million. An ongoing source of tension between Barry and Honey (Barry did not want to move from their Old Colony Rd. home) were the feared cost overruns. Friends say Honey felt if she had a pool of money that was her own, she would not have to involve Barry in decisions.
Today, the pie-shaped Forest Hill property is for sale as a building lot at a cost of $ 9.9 million, complete with plans for the high-end home that included a retractable roof over a swimming pool.
Both friends of Honey and friends of Barry confirmed that Barry was contemplating making a major gift to Honey. Honey’s friends say she mentioned specific dollar figures. Barry’s friends said a specific dollar figure was never mentioned to them, but that Barry told them it would be a great deal of money.
“Barry was talking about giving Honey a substantial amount of money,” said one person close to Barry.
The Sherman friends say one complicating factor in the planned gift to Honey was Shechtman.
“It was to be Honey’s money,” said a close friend. “If she wanted to give some to Mary, fine.”
In fact, in the wake of the Sherman murders, sources say Shechtman told the Sherman children that Honey had promised her $ 300 million. That claim, unsubstantiated by any paperwork, produced a rift between the Sherman children and Shechtman, beginning several days after the murder. The rift continues to this day. Separate shivas were held, one at Shechtman’s home and one at Barry’s sister Sandra Florence’s home.
Sources say Shechtman has told friends that her family is so short of cash that her husband is driving an Uber in Florida, and she is considering a job as a tour guide.
Shechtman declined numerous requests for an interview.
Early one evening in the summer of the year he was murdered, a new Apotex employee gestured to someone else in the lab, pointing at a grey-haired man in a worn white labcoat who was moving a waste paper bin. “Is that the guy who takes out the trash?”
“No,” the other researcher said. “That’s Barry Sherman, the owner of Apotex.”
Sherman’s colleagues and friends say the company founder talked as if he was just getting started, not as if he had run a successful business for 43 years. A typical work day started at 10 or 11 a.m. (an insomniac, he slept best in the early morning hours) but went until 8 or 9 p.m., when he went home. But it was not unusual for Sherman to fire out emails throughout the night, which employees and executives would wake to receive. Or if they were working at the Apotex plants in India, respond during work hours due to the time difference.
Expansion was much on his mind and in the early spring of 2017 he purchased a drug plant in Miramar, Fla., at a cost of $ 50 million (US). The plan, according to Apotex insiders, was to create a true U.S. hub for drug production, particularly of opioid-based painkillers that have to be legally made in the U.S. and cannot be shipped in from Canada. A South Florida Business Journal article in March 2017 said this was part of a $ 184-million (US) expansion into the U.S. by Apotex and that 150 full-time jobs would be created in Broward County, where Miramar is located.
Other senior executives at Apotex did not agree with this planned expansion, “but it was Barry’s company and he wanted to grow the business,” said one Apotex insider.
Sherman died before the expansion could gain steam. In February 2019, Apotex sold the Broward property for $ 38 million, a loss of $ 12 million, according to the South Florida Business Journal, which covered the transaction.
Previously, in July 2018, Apotex announced it had signed an agreement to “sell its commercial operations and certain supporting infrastructure for its generics business in five European countries to Aurobindo Pharma Limited.” Apotex, in a statement, said “the sale will allow Apotex to focus its resources on the Americas where strong demand for its portfolio continues.”
Then, in April of this year, Bloomberg reported that Apotex has hired a financial adviser to review its options for a sale. Apotex did not respond to questions from Bloomberg or the Star about the rumours the company is up for sale.
People close to Sherman say these changes would likely not have occurred if Sherman was alive. They say he had both a five-year plan and a 15-year plan to grow Apotex. He was not planning on selling any time soon.
The Sherman Fortune Now
Barry Sherman’s estate was left under the control of four trustees. Alex Glasenberg (he runs the family holding company Sherfam); Jonathon Sherman (son); Brad Krawczyk (husband of Alex Krawczyk, Barry and Honey’s daughter), and Jack Kay, Barry Sherman’s long-time second in command at Apotex. However, Jonathon Sherman fired Kay from Apotex in December 2018 and while on paper he appears to still be a trustee he has not been to trustee meetings since he was let go from Apotex.
Sherman’s estate is subject to a court sealing order. Sources close to the Sherman family say that Sherman’s will, written in 2013 and last updated in March of 2017, establishes a “living trust” to look after Honey, but that the estate upon her death is to be divided equally between the four children, Jonathon, Alex, Lauren and Kaelen.
The Star and its reporter went to court to unseal the estate documents and was denied at Superior Court because a judge found merit in the Sherman estate lawyer’s argument that releasing the file could endanger the trustees and beneficiaries. The Star appealed and a three-justice panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the lower court decision and ordered the files made public. However, that order was recently stayed pending the Sherman family’s attempt to have the case heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Sherman family has filed its “leave application” and the court will decide later this year whether or not to hear the appeal.
Kevin Donovan can be reached at 416-312-3503 or email@example.com