05/15/2015 11:12 EDT | Updated 05/15/2016 05:59 EDT

Parti Quebecois leader turns his attention to running the Parti Quebecois

MONTREAL - Pierre Karl Peladeau, who for years guided the fortunes of a sprawling media empire, will now be running a political party whose ultimate objective is Quebec independence.

Peladeau, 53, was elected leader of the Parti Quebecois on Friday with 57.6 per cent of the ballots cast in the first round of voting.

Since entering politics in March 2014, the man who remains Quebecor Inc.'s controlling shareholder has made it clear that his overriding goal is to achieve independence.

On Friday, he emphasized that nothing has changed.

"You have given me a strong and clear mandate — to make Quebec a country," he said to loud applause after he had been declared the winner.

That day is still far off, however, because the next provincial election will be held only in the fall of 2018.

A relative neophyte in the political world, Peladeau was in large part responsible for transforming his father's paper-based company into a digital and telecommunications powerhouse.

In 1991, Peladeau was named president of the publishing, distribution and retail sales arm of Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B). He moved to Paris in 1994 to beef up the European section of the firm and within three years the company was the continent's main printer.

He returned to Canada at the end of 1997 after his father's death and, by the end of 1998, Quebecor had become a major player in the country's media industry with the acquisition of Sun Media Corp.

By 2000, and by then president and CEO of Quebecor, Peladeau began the company's transformation from print to digital with the acquisition of the TVA television network and Videotron, a major cable provider.

While becoming PQ leader is one thing, Peladeau's chances of being elected premier in a province where the labour movement still carries considerable clout could well depend on his approach over the next three years.

When the PQ announced he would be running for the party last year, one of Quebec's largest labour federations said Peladeau was a "catastrophe for the workers of the province" and stated he was responsible for 14 lockouts during his tenure at Quebecor.

Peladeau's influence in Quebec is undeniable. Besides TVA, Videotron and the hugely popular Le Journal de Montreal, his media empire includes several star-driven magazines that are gobbled up on a weekly basis.

He is engaged to Julie Snyder, a household name in Quebec and a media darling in her role as a talk-show host and producer of various shows geared for TV.

Peladeau resigned from Quebecor in March 2013 and was quickly named as chairman of Hydro-Quebec by then-premier Pauline Marois.

He remained with the utility for less than a year before Marois said he would run for the party in the 2014 election.

During his political coming-out, Peladeau raised his fist in the air and declared his goal to make Quebec a country in what became one of the defining moments of the campaign.

One high-profile Peladeau supporter remembers the gesture with pride, even though some observers believe it turned the campaign in favour of Philippe Couillard's Liberals.

"When I saw Peladeau raise his fist in the air I thought, better to raise your fist than to lower your arms," former premier Bernard Landry told a crowd of supporters when Peladeau first announced his candidacy.

"Now we have someone who will take up the fight and is doing so in a clear and brilliant way and we will follow him."

Peladeau's followers hope that with his prominence and his public championing of the province's culture, language and history, he can unite the province's separatist forces and become the first leader of an independent Quebec.