Assessing Vincent Bolloré

WHO IS FRANCE’S greatest capitalist? Americans might think this question is the beginning of a joke. Those who take it seriously may finger Vincent Bolloré, who over nearly four decades has built an empire spanning African ports and French pipelines, pay-TV, electric cars, the world’s biggest music label and much else besides. On May 29th the 67-year-old stepped down from the board of Bolloré SA, the holding company at his complex empire’s core. At an annual meeting outside Paris, he air-kissed fawning shareholders one last time and, as a parting gift, gave each one three bottles of wine (from a Bolloré vineyard).

With sales of €23bn ($25.6bn) and 81,000 employees around the globe, Bolloré Group testifies to its boss’s knack for business. A more sober assessment of his reign reveals a complicated legacy. The tycoon emerges as a flawed exemplar of capitalism. His heirs should draw lessons.

Though from 1822 five generations had built a Bolloré bible-and-cigarette-paper concern in Brittany, Vincent is what the French call un self-made man. In 1981, still in his 20s, he paid a couple of francs for the family concern, which had fallen into the hands of its creditors—a quixotic move for an up-and-coming investment banker.

Mr Bolloré’s dynastic industrial ambitions, admired in French business...

via Business Feeds

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