MONTREAL (AP) — Paul Desmarais Sr., a billionaire tycoon who built one of Canada's biggest financial conglomerates, has died. He was 86.

Power Corp. and his family said Wednesday he died Tuesday evening at his country estate northeast of Quebec City surrounded by family.

Desmarais led Power Corp. as its chairman and chief executive from 1968 to 1996 before passing the reins to his sons.

Desmarais was one of Canada's most powerful figures, straddling the worlds of business and politics. He was a staunch defender of Canadian unity in the French-speaking province.

With his company's diversified holdings in insurance, transportation, paper, media, and financial service he was often referred to as Quebec Inc. He had the ear of Canadian prime ministers and world leaders and he was among Canada's wealthiest citizens.