René Angélil dead: Céline Dion's husband dead at 73

René Angélil, the man who transformed Céline Dion from little-known teen francophone chanteuse to international pop superstar, has died.

Angélil turned Quebec pop singer into worldwide sensation

René Angélil dies of cancer at 73

7 years ago
Duration 1:57
He transformed Céline Dion from little-known teen francophone chanteuse to international pop superstar

René Angélil, the man who transformed Céline Dion from little-known teen francophone chanteuse to international pop superstar, has died.

Angélil, who started as Dion's manager and later became her husband, was 73.

He had undergone cancer treatment several times in the past two decades.

Last summer, Dion announced she was putting her career on hold to care for her ailing husband, cancelling all future performances of her Las Vegas show as well as an upcoming Asian tour slated to begin in the fall. 

In his final years, Angélil lived in Las Vegas with Dion and their three children: René-Charles, 14, and five-year-old fraternal twins Eddy and Nelson.

René Angélil was treated for cancer several times in the last two decades. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Family requests privacy

A statement released by Francine Chaloult, a spokeswoman for Dion, said Angélil died at his home in Las Vegas after a "courageous battle against cancer." The statement also said the family "requests that their privacy be respected at the moment" and that "more details will be provided at a later time."

Dion went to Facebook to announce the death of her husband.

Found early fame in Montreal boy band

Before he became the man behind the powerhouse vocalist, Angélil had his first brush with the spotlight on stage. 

In the early 60s, the Montrealer made a name for himself in the boy band Les Baronets alongside two childhood friends.

The group took English pop songs from groups like The Beatles and translated them into French.

They enjoyed short-term success and had a few hits.

After the group broke up in 1972, Angélil changed gears and went into talent management.

He took on some of Quebec's biggest pop artists, including René Simard and Ginette Reno. The latter saw a resurgence in popularity after she was deemed the Montreal Canadiens' lucky charm for singing the national anthem during their playoff run.

But it was the bigger-than-life voice of Dion that truly launched Angélil's career into the stratosphere.

He discovered Dion, 26 years his junior, when she sent him a demo tape when she was 12 years old.

He mortgaged his house to launch her career and told anyone who would listen that he was going to make the songstress a worldwide star.

The two eventually developed a romantic relationship, one that was initially kept secret.

They eventually married in 1994 at Montreal's Notre-Dame Basilica.

Surviving a bout of throat cancer in the late 1990s, Angélil and Dion welcomed their first son in 2001.

The twins were conceived nearly a decade later through in vitro fertilization.

Extortion plot

While he lived life in the spotlight that shone brightly on his wife, Angélil made his own headlines with his high-stakes gambling habit and an extortion plot that aimed to take him for $13.5 million.

In 2003, a California minister and his wife were sentenced to 28 months in prison after demanding millions from the manager in return for keeping quiet about an alleged sexual assault involving Angélil and the minister's wife.

Investigators later confirmed the assault claim was bogus and Angélil was never charged.

However, he did pay the couple $2 million and underwent a blood test to screen for HIV as part of a confidential agreement reached with the pair in 2000.

Angélil's legal team maintained that the money didn't amount to an admission of guilt and that he settled the matter because he feared for his health and did not want negative publicity.

Céline Dion halts career to care for husband

8 years ago
Duration 2:59
Canada's pop superstar announces decision to postpone her show business activities to tend to René Angélil and their children

Other business ventures

His top client always remained Dion, but Angélil was involved in a number of other entertainment ventures during the course of his career.

In 2008, he was named director of the popular Quebec reality show Star Académie, a French-language singing competition in the American Idol genre.

In 2012, a conglomerate that included Dion and Angélil, purchased beloved Montreal landmark Schwartz's Deli for an undisclosed sum.

Angélil was also an avid poker player and qualified for several high-level tournaments, including the World Series of Poker. 

Angélil and Dion were appointed members of the Order of Canada in 2012. 

In his citation, Governor General David Johnston called Angélil an "example of generosity," noting that he helped created the first otorhinolaryngology oncology research chair in Quebec and that he was an honorary lifetime patron of Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal. 

Angélil stepped aside as Dion's manager in June.

At the time, rumours had suggested his battle with cancer had taken a turn for the worse. 

But Dion tried to defuse the speculation at a charity fundraiser in Montreal in July, telling reporters that her husband was "doing really well," and "working really hard on his health."

No funeral plans have yet been made public.


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