When he was very young, during the occupation of France, Francois Pinault used to bring food to the allied aviators hidden near the family home in Brittany. Upon returning home one day, a German patrol grabbed him and savagely hit his father with a whip in an effort to make one of them speak.
He did not either. Apparently, Francois didn’t even blink. At the age of seven, according to legend, he was already cultivating the determination, recklessness and contempt for authority that, more than half a century later, made him the richest man in France, his most successful corporate assailant and One of the few people who have the private telephone number of President Jacques Chirac.Today, Pinault is in battle with the world leader in the luxury goods market, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, for control of Gucci designer brands, in which it has acquired a stake of more than 40 percent. Gucci turned to him as a somewhat unlikely white gentleman earlier this month after LVMH built a hostile gamble and launched a full offer for the world-renowned Italian fashion house.
In the event that the tireless 62-year-old emerges successfully, Gucci will be just the latest addition to a remarkable and eclectic empire that includes the Christie’s International auction house, the Printemps department store, the La Redoute mail-order business, the main music , electronics and the Fnac book chain, a classic Bordeaux vineyard, Chateau Latour, the Samsonite luggage manufacturer, Le Point magazine, a French first division football club and Vail ski resorts in Colorado. Pinault’s personal portfolio company, Artemis, properly appointed by the Greek goddess of hunting, recently paid £ 625 million for the beauty products division of Sanofi, a major French pharmaceutical company, adding perfumes such as Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de La Renta, Van Cleef & Arpels and Roger & Gallet to the expansion of the Pinault stable.
In December, he took a friendly portion of the vast French construction and media group Bouygues, in the process of repelling another breakthrough, giving him a seat on the board and, more importantly, a voice in the operation of the jewel in The crown of Bouygues. – The successful French commercial television channel TF1, a rumored target that has been watching since 1996.‘Financially, I could raise 30 billion francs tomorrow for any acquisition I would like. Culturally, publishers have refused to accept an unauthorized biography because Fnac is our largest bookstore. Politically, he is not only Chirac’s best friend, but he is also on very good terms with half of the leftist intellectuals and some high-ranking socialists. ”
The news magazine L’Express recently classified Francois Pinault as the richest man in the country, with 32 billion francs (£ 3 billion) in assets. Still blond, blue-eyed and fit, he has come a long way thanks to the 100,000 francs he borrowed from his family and Credit Lyonnais in 1962 to start his first business, a small Breton wood merchant called Les Etablissements. Francois PinaultBorn on August 21, 1936, in Cote d’Armor, a relatively modest area of Brittany, in a family of small wood merchants, Pinault left Saint-Martin College in Rennes at age 16 without qualification in his name.
He was, recalls Jean Tessier, a former employee of the family business, “what you would call solid, by no means talkative.” In the early 1970s, he began buying dozens of undervalued small businesses across the country to expand his concern for wood.His cruelty in turning them soon became apparent. Much later in his career, in 1986, he bought the main plywood manufacturer in France, Isoroy, and reduced the number of central office employees from 700 to 25 in two months.
The legions of high-ranking executives, even those in major acquisitions such as Printemps in 1992, a huge and highly controversial agreement that led to the rewriting of the acquisition laws of France and that prompted Pinault dramatically to the national scene, were first courted, then without ceremonies.